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UCF AD thinks new AAC TV deal will be ‘on par’ with Power 6

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The offseason of UCF athletic director Danny White continues.

No, this isn’t another article about the Knights’ being national champions or releasing marketing studies or anything, even, to do with the upcoming season. No, this has to do with his conference’s upcoming television deal. The AAC’s rights expire after the 2019-20 season as is typically the case with such deals, negotiations for what happens starting in 2020 are going to commence in the coming months.

Per The Athletic’s Chris Vannini, those current deals with ESPN and CBS pay the league around $21 million a year and many around conference are expecting a big jump soon in the payouts.

“I don’t know how the first five years of our conference could have gone any better, with across-the-board success, particularly in football,” White said. “Whether you look at television ratings, competitive success, New Year’s Day bowl wins, we’ve way outperformed.

“I think our current deal is way undervalued, and everybody understands that. We’re all really confident we’ll get a much more significant television deal that puts us on par with where we should be, with the Power 6 conferences.”

Ok then.

While the AAC and those in the league continue to push that they are on par with the other Power Five conferences, that simply isn’t the case when you look at everything from actual NCAA governance to the cold hard cash each league receives. Even the much discussed Pac-12 Networks is contributing more to the conference’s schools than the $21 million the AAC receives and the league itself falls far short of its peers when it comes to total revenue. In 2016-17 alone, AAC revenue dropped below $75 million compared to over $500 million for the Pac-12, SEC and Big Ten each. Even in the Big 12, Texas alone takes in nearly as much TV revenue from the Longhorn Network (roughly $15 million a year) as the entire AAC does.

Given that the original deals were signed in 2013 with ESPN and CBS back when realignment was going crazy, White is absolutely correct in his assessment that  the current deal is a little undervalued and a solid increase is in the cards for the league in the not-to-distant future. But as far as that winding up coming close to what the Power Five are bringing in? It seems like a stretch to say the least.

Utah names USF’s Mark Harlan as AD

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Mark Harlan is the new athletics director at Utah, the school has announced. Harlan is currently the AD at South Florida.

He replaces Chris Hill, who ran the Utes for the past 31 years, guiding the university from the bloated WAC to becoming a founding member of the Mountain West, and then from the Mountain West to the Pac-12. Under Hill’s guidance, Utah reached the Final Four in 1998 and appeared in two BCS games — the 2005 Fiesta Bowl and the 2009 Sugar Bowl, both wins — under two different head coaches.

“After an extensive national search during which we spoke with a number of outstanding candidates, Mark emerged as our clear top choice,” Utah president Ruth V. Watkins said in a statement. “Mark has a breadth of experience in athletics and in fundraising, an open and collaborative leadership style and a track record of success that will enable him to lead our athletics department to greater heights.  On behalf of the university community, I want to welcome Mark and his family to the U.”

Harlan had served as USF’s AD since 2014. Prior to that, he was a career left coaster. An Arizona graduate, Harlan climbed the latter with stops at Northern Colorado, San Jose State, Arizona and UCLA.

“I’m extremely pleased to welcome Mark Harlan back to the Pac-12. Having worked with Mark for a number of years when he oversaw external affairs at UCLA, I know firsthand what an excellent hire this is for Utah. Mark is a great communicator, and a person and an administrator of high integrity,” UCLA AD Dan Guerrero said. “He and his family will be a tremendous addition to the Utah community. I look forward to working with him in the conference.”

Harlan will take over as Utah’s full-time AD on July 1.

AAC conference office moving from Providence to Dallas area in two years

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It’s all quiet on the conference realignment front but at least one conference is realigning where its offices are located.

The American Athletic Conference (AAC) has been based in Providence, Rhode Island ever since it split from the Big East back in 2013 but will be packing their bags for the Dallas area in two years when, the Dallas Morning News reports, their lease expires on their current office space.

“Dallas has become almost the epicenter of college football. I’ve made no bones about it, we’re planning to move our conference offices here,” commissioner Mike Aresco told the paper. “We think we belong closer to more of our schools. We’ve got a school (SMU) here, which means people are coming in all the time.”

Aresco isn’t wrong about Dallas being the epicenter of college football (though Atlanta would have a good argument) between the annual season-opening games at AT&T Stadium, the Cotton Bowl, several FBS teams in the area and a host of important groups based nearby. That includes the College Football Playoff, Conference USA, the Big 12 and the National Football Foundation, who are all based in North Texas and have their main offices located fairly close together near the suburb of Irving.

The move follows the league’s journey westward after a few rounds of expansion and will definitely make travel a little bit easier for everybody throughout the conference. While they will be going from one edge of AAC territory to another, it’s certainly more convenient to get to Dallas than into Providence and the league is already putting several events like the men’s basketball tournament in the region.

Perhaps the biggest unanswered question from all of this will be if the AAC keeps its famous clambake that kicks off media day every football season. Perhaps Tulane and the Texas schools have already mentioned transitioning the event to a crawfish boil.

DB Craig Watts leaves USF, lands at Div. II school

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With transfer season in full swing, South Florida is the latest to see its roster sustain a bit of attrition.

Craig Watts took to his personal Twitter account Monday to reveal that he will be transferring from Charlie Strong‘s USF program.  The defensive back also posted a photo of him signing paperwork for Valdosta State, indicating a move to the Division II school.

As he’s dropping down a couple of levels, Watts, who’ll be a redshirt sophomore in 2018, will be eligible to play immediately this coming season.

After coming to the Bulls as a three-star recruit on 247Sports.com‘s composite board, Watts took a redshirt as a true freshman.  He played in 12 games last season and was credited with five tackles.

Florida, USF schedule three-game series, including one in Tampa

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When it comes to scheduling arrangements involving a Power Five and Group of Five program, this is certainly an interesting one.

Both Florida and USF announced Tuesday a future series between the two schools.  As part of the three-game series, the Bulls will travel to Gainesville’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for two of the matchups — Sept. 17, 2022, and Sept. 6, 2025.  In between is the interesting aspect as the Gators will make the trek south to play at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 9, 2023.

That latter game will mark the first time ever the two teams will square off in Tampa.

“We are very excited for our program and our fans to add three games against the University of Florida to our schedule,” a statement from USF athletic director Mark Harlan began. “I would like to thank Coach Strong for his desire to play a challenging non-conference schedule and the leadership at Florida for their partnership in making this happen. We are committed to scheduling opponents that our fans are excited to see the Bulls compete against and Florida certainly ranks very high on that list.”

“This is a unique scheduling opportunity that allows us to get three games against a quality FBS opponent, with two at home and one in a great venue in Tampa,” Harlan’s UF counterpart, Scott Stricklin, said in his statement. “A lot of Gator fans will have the opportunity to attend that game and we are looking forward to being able to play a regular-season game in central Florida.”

The two teams have met just once previously. In Week 2 of the 2010 season, the Gators dropped the Bulls 38-14 in The Swamp in what turned out to be Urban Meyer‘s final season with the program.

Charlie Strong, the current USF head coach, was in his first season in the same job at Louisville that year after spending the previous seven seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Gators.  UF’s current head coach, Dan Mullen, spent four years as Meyer’s offensive coordinator before taking over at Mississippi State in 2009.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to host South Florida twice in The Swamp and also play them in Raymond James Stadium,” Mullen said. “The Tampa/St. Petersburg area is an important recruiting footprint for us and our players will love playing another game in an NFL stadium.”