The Big East was once the home to six schools currently making a home in the ACC and one each in the Big Ten and Big 12. Realignment changes rattled the Big East a few years back, causing a split of the basketball schools that took the Big East brand with them and leaving the leftover programs to rebrand under the American Athletic Conference. With the Big 12 having internal discussions about the possibility of expanding back to a 12-member line-up, the AAC is watching with caution and waiting for the Big 12 to make a final decision, for better or worse of the AAC. Commissioner Mike Aresco hopes the expansion situation comes to a close soon enough, but he is not wasting time preparing for the possibility of once again seeing one or more member of his conference leave for another.
“I think if we lose a school would we add one? In all likelihood we probably would,”Aresco explained, according to The Orlando Sentinel. “You don’t want to be 11 in football, but on the other hand you could do it. If we lost two, which would probably be the worst-case scenario … we could stay at 10. With the new legislation, we could easily stay at 10, play a championship game, have 5 team divisions and have an eight-game [conference] schedule. We could do that if we wanted to.”
The NCAA recently allowed for conferences to play a conference championship game despite not having the usually required 12 members. The AAC started playing a conference championship game last season after the addition of Navy brought the conference to 12 football-playing members. The new NCAA legislation regarding conference championship games allows a conference to hold a title game with fewer than 12 teams, which was figured to benefit the Big 12. The Big 12, however, has not made a decision on whether or not it will play a conference title game.
“We have 12 good schools that are nationally known and if we lose one or two we’ll figure it out,” Aresco said. “It’s not going to be an Earth-shattering thing. It’s not going to be anything like it was three years ago.”
Aresco was referring to the loss of Louisville to the ACC and Rutgers to the Big Ten. Pittsburgh and Syracuse had already joined the ACC and West Virginia was competing in the Big 12. Since then, multiple AAC schools have been mentioned in various expansion rumors and discussions as possibilities, some more realistic than others. Cincinnati, Connecticut, Memphis, UCF, USF and Houston have all been mentioned at one point or another as potential targets for the Big 12. Once the Big 12 makes its decision final, at least Aresco and the entire AAC will be able to move on with some clearer vision of what comes next.
“I would like to see it settle down,” Aresco said. “There has been instability because of this whole Big 12 thing for the last few years. It’s not good for the schools. It’s not good for the fan bases. It puts pressure on our administrators and our coaches because they have to get asked this question.”