The Creation of the American Athletic Conference
When the so-called “Catholic 7” (the Big East’s non-FBS schools) announced they had voted to leave the conference in 2012 amid the realignment frenzy, the remaining schools did the right thing by selling the Big East name and forming their own rebranded conference. “The American” has a great ring to it, and under commissioner Mike Aresco, it has gradually established itself as a threat to the old guard.
Sure, the AAC is still rightfully listed among the Group of Five, but over the past few years, schools like Memphis, Houston, Navy, Temple and USF have put together standout seasons and beaten big-enough-name opponents that the conference has seemed like just a half-step down from the Power 5. Aresco has repeatedly voiced his desire for his conference to be the force behind a “Power 6,” and he’s backed up that claim. Despite its complete lack of geographic unity, the AAC is looking less like a stepping stone for teams and coaches and more like an institution that’s here to stay.