The American Athletic Conference announced a contract extension for commissioner Mike Aresco on Monday. Aresco, who has served as the commissioner of the conference since its founding following the split of the old Big East, will remain the commissioner until June 2022.
“Mike Aresco has done an outstanding job of leading the American Athletic Conference through its early years and I am very happy that he will continue on with us,” Susan Herbst, President of the University of Connecticut and Chair of The American’s Board of Directors, said in a released statement. “Mike is a strong commissioner who is respected by the presidents and institutions within the Conference. It is important for The American to have excellent, consistent leadership and that is what Mike provides.”
Aresco oversaw the conference through its transition from the old Big East to its rebranded image as the American Athletic Conference in 2013 (Aresco was named Big East commissioner in August 2012, but was unable to save a sinking ship amid realignment changes in college sports). During his time as commissioner, the AAC has expanded with the additions of East Carolina, Tulsa and Tulane in all sports, Navy in football, and just recently with the addition of Wichita State basketball. Of course, Aresco has also been at the helm at a time when the Big East basketball schools split off following recent departures from the conference and saw Rutgers lured away by the Big Ten in the years after losing Louisville, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh to the ACC.
Aresco has also led the charge to have the AAC recognized as a power conference by its peers, which has been a worthy goal but a futile attempt in reality.
“I am extremely proud of the progress that this Conference has made,” Aresco said in a released statement. “Our presidents and athletic directors have made the commitment necessary for us to become a Power 6 conference and have, in a difficult environment, provided the vision and resources that have enabled our student-athletes and coaches to compete at the highest level.”
Perhaps the biggest win Aresco has seen during his watch was somehow avoiding having the Big 12 come picking at the conference last fall. Big 12 expansion candidates were believed to include a handful of AAC programs (Cincinnati, Houston, UCF, USF, Memphis), yet the Big 12 chose to not follow through with conference expansion, thus saving the AAC from being raided as the old Big East had in the past.