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.”
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.
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.
Joseph Sewell, they hardly knew ye. Or knew of ye, at least when it comes to the fans.
The ye in this case is Alabama, with Sewell announcing on Twitter that he has decided to transfer from the defending national champions. Not only that, but the defensive lineman announced his transfer destination for good measure — Middle Tennessee State.
As Sewell hails from Murfreesboro, the home of the Blue Raiders, the landing spot is far from a surprise. It should be noted, though, that MTSU, which didn’t offer him a scholarship coming out of high school interestingly enough, has yet to officially announce Sewell’s addition to the roster.
Sewell was a two-star 2017 recruit who walked on with the Crimson Tide last year after receiving offers from, among others, Vanderbilt, Army, Navy, Appalachian State, Miami (Ohio) and UT-San Antonio. Suffice to say, he never played a down for ‘Bama.
Zach Abey was Navy’s starting quarterback for the bulk of the 2017 season. The junior led the Midshipmen with 293 carries for 1,413 yards (the second-highest single-season total in academy history) and 19 touchdowns while completing 31-of-72 passes for 805 yards and seven touchdowns. But the Middies went 6-6 in the regular season — the program’s worst season since 2011 — and dropped its second straight game to Army, sending Navy into its first losing streak against its archival in more than 20 years.
So head coach Ken Niumataololo announced ahead of the Military Bowl that sophomore Malcolm Perry would be the starting quarterback moving forward, and the move worked. Perry rushed 16 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns, but Abey still got his touches, rushing for five touchdowns in his 13 carries, and Navy crushed Virginia, 49-7. The expectation moving forward was that, while Perry would start, Abey would remain involved as the short-yardage quarterback.
But when Navy released its post-spring depth chart on Monday, Abey was unexpectedly listed as a co-starter at wide receiver. It’s not that Abey won’t play quarterback, it’s just that Navy won’t waste him on the sideline for every 1st-and-10.
“We’re just trying to get our best players on the field. Zach is clearly one of our best players and this is a good way to get him out there,” Niumatalolo told The Capital Gazette. “Zach is still going to play quarterback, but he is just too valuable to sit on the bench for most of the game.”
Abey is listed at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, a rugged frame that will help him excel at what Navy wideouts do most often: block.
“Zach wants to play as much as possible and I completely understand that,” Niumatalolo said. “When I mentioned the possibility of playing wide receiver, Zach was very excited about it. He is confident he can contribute at that position.”
It took more than two decades, but Army has, by way of the President of the United States of America, finally gotten its hands again on some significant service academy football hardware.
In December, Army beat Navy when its rival’s last-second field-goal attempt fell short. Combined with Army’s win over Air Force earlier in the season, it meant that the Black Knights had staked its claim to the 2017 version of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, handed out annually since 1972 to the service academy that wins that season’s three-way football series.
The last time Army won the trophy (1996), the president was Bill Clinton; this time around, the Oval Office is occupied by Donald Trump, who in a White House ceremony Tuesday afternoon awarded the trophy to the reigning service academy champions.
The Black Knights will be looking to win back-to-back Commander-in-Chief Trophies for the first time in the honor’s history. All told, Army has claimed the trophy seven times, compared to 20 for Air Force and 15 for Navy. On four occasions (1974, 1976, 1980, 1993) the award was shared, with the winner the previous year retaining possession of the physical trophy.
Army is the second college football team to visit the White House this offseason. Earlier this month, Alabama, with Nick Saban famously calling recruits during it, took its trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to celebrate the Crimson Tide claiming the 2017 national championship.