Fans of the University of South Florida look eastward and see that Central Florida their partner the AAC heading to the Big 12 conference. Bulls fans take no pleasure in seeing the Knights, Cincinnati, and Houston heading to a Power 5 conference with an automatic bid for the College Football Playoffs along with a big bump in cash coming from a new Big 12 television deal in 2025 or sooner.
That said Mike Aresco the commissioner of the American Athletic Conference is not going to let three of his top programs be poached by the Big 12 without a plan to keep the league strong. So as the famous saying from Horace Greeley goes “Go West, young man.”
The “In Mike we trust tour,” seems and rightfully so focused on making The American (AAC) the only conference in the country to reach from the Atlantic to the Pacific with the ability to offer games in all U.S. time zones. To do that the AAC needs to quickly move to add Mountain West teams Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, and UNLV.
*I know that Boise State might still be in the Big 12 plans if they add two more teams along with Memphis. If that is the case Nevada or Fresno State and UAB would be the replacements.
It is a bold move to be sure but it is the right move.
A quick look at the five teams shows you why the AAC needs to expand to the West
Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, and UNLV have all had various desires to leave the Moutain West Conference for a better deal. SDSU, with its huge media market, great basketball program, and new football stadium, is ideally suited for a move. Boise State, with its football pedigree, made a compelling case to the Big 12, but they were passed over. As a military academy, Air Force could join Navy in the AAC which is a great national TV draw.
Colorado State has a new football facility that is ready for primetime. UNLV is a bit of a wildcard here but they have a long history in basketball plus the Rebels are located in a fast-growing media market plus their home football games are played inside Allegiant Stadium the $2 billion, the glass-walled palace also home to the Raiders.
Going West makes much more sense than adding any other programs like UT-San Antonio, UAB, FAU, Old Dominion, Charlotte, Liberty, North Texas, Louisiana-Monroe, FIU, Coastal Carolina, or Appalachian State to the AAC. While none of the aforementioned schools are bad programs making the AAC a truly national conference with coast-to-coast members is a much better sale to the conference TV partners and might even enhance the leagues’ bottom line.
What would a newly minted AAC look like?
Navy (Only plays football in the AAC)
San Diego State
Travel could be made simple by each team playing their division foes and then rotating in other members of the conference every other year. Conference football championship games could be played in Las Vegas and Tampa to showcase a really national league.
I will end this column the way it began – “In Mike We Trust,” now make it happen.