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I had to admit, I was surprised to hear the full extent of the AAC's plans to reload after losing three flagship programs to the Big 12. I was expecting the league to add UAB and Charlotte, and I figured some combination of UTSA, FAU and Marshall was coming.
Instead, per multiple reports, the AAC is going big. The league plans to add UAB, Charlotte, UTSA, FAU, North Texas and Rice.
Rather than focusing on established athletic brands with supportive fan bases, it appeared to me that the AAC instead went out and focused on markets, population centers, and potential. In fact, per Yahoo!, that was exactly the plan:
One of the guiding philosophies of the AAC’s expansion was to grow through fertile recruiting areas. The AAC expansion committee included a prominent crew of athletic directors from the conference – USF’s Mike Kelly, Memphis’ Laird Veatch, SMU’s Rick Hart and Navy’s Chet Gladchuk.
While the size of television markets is no longer as critical of a guiding principle in conference decisions, this move for the AAC allows the league’s ESPN television contract to grow promising programs through exposure. And it doesn’t hurt that they are all situated in major metropolitan areas that can rally around success. (UTSA, which is 7-0, just got ranked for the first time this week, for example.)
I have to admit... I was not impressed with this argument. After all, that's essentially the exact same argument Conference USA used when they added programs like FAU, Charlotte and UTSA to the conference in the first place. It didn't work, as the Sun Belt passed Conference USA in almost every metric that matters. Does the AAC really think that a few million more in TV revenue and regular games against Memphis and South Florida will be enough to completely unlock the potential for these brands? Especially after some of them go through coaching changes?
But hey, maybe my first reading was unfair. After sleeping on it, crunching some numbers, and talking to a few other writers and industry folks...well, I'm still not crazy about it. But I can at least understand what the league is attempting to do.
To help make sense of what just happened, we have another episode of Going For Two. In this episode, Bryan and I break down, among other things,
- What kind of athletics league we think the AAC will become in the short-term, and whether Bryan agrees with my skepticism.
- What we are hearing will happen with the AAC TV contract.
- Where Conference USA messed all of this up.
- What we would do if we were Conference USA, including my proposal to launch a completely new conference, The Mountain East.
- Why we think it's time for Independent UTEP.
- Major storylines we're looking at in the football coaching search market.
- New guests announced
- and more!
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