In 2013, the American Athletic Conference (AAC) was formed with a combination of schools from the Big East and Conference-USA.
Over the years, the AAC has experienced many successes on the basketball court and football field. The conference has sent multiple teams to the NCAA tournament each year, have teams in New-Year’s Six bowls, and even had a national title team in 2014.
However, due to UCONN leaving the conference and the financial burden of the Covid-19 pandemic, I think the conference will disband in the coming years.
Despite the fact that UCONN had little success on the football field and basketball court in recent years, they have one of the largest fan-bases and alumni in the country.
The Huskies played a large part in ESPN and CBS picking up their exclusive basketball rights, and with UCONN leaving, these networks may decide to not pay as much for these rights, thus drastically impacting the bottom line for all athletic departments in the AAC.
Also, with UCONN’s massive fan base, they drastically drive up TV ratings for basketball games on both ESPN and CBS, making the rights to AAC games more expensive with UCONN than without.
UCONN was the first domino to fall in the AAC, and there will be more to follow.
To start, the geographic makeup of the conference is a total mess. The conference has teams in all four corners of the southeast, southwest, midwest, and mid-Atlantic.
The funding for travel isn’t too much of a problem for football and basketball. However, does it make sense for all the small sports to have to travel hundreds of miles to every away game, costing the university thousands of dollars in travel expenses for teams that would lose the school money anyways?
Furthermore, with the COVID-19 pandemic, all athletic departments will have much shorter pockets. With this in mind, would it make sense for schools in Texas, such as SMU or Houston, to have spent thousands of dollars to fly 40+ soccer players up to Temple in Philadelphia? Probably not.
Also, with the conference being so spread out, there are almost no rivalries to be had. This has caused games to be played in empty arenas and has caused alumni to become apathetic towards their program.
The lack of rivalries doesn’t only hurt the school’s fan bases and ticket sales, but it also hurts teams in the recruiting process. High school kids love the idea of having a bitter rivalry with another school, and almost no schools on the AAC can offer this.
All in all, with less money coming into the athletic department, the lack of any natural rivals, hefty travel bills, and the budget cuts due to COVID-19, the American Athletic Conference will not last for much longer, and schools in the AAC will look for conferences that make more geographic sense.
The AAC isn’t a Power 5 (conference) and it never will be. Member schools will begin to learn that being in the conference has more negatives than positives, and the AAC will soon cease to exist.
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