AAC hopes to wrap up exit talks with UCF, Cincinnati and Houston by spring – Orlando Sentinel

The next step in UCF’s move to the Big 12 Conference could happen sometime this spring as the Knights discuss an exit strategy with the American Athletic Conference.
UCF, Cincinnati and Houston accepted bids to join the Big 12 last September but are contractually required to remain with the AAC through 2024. All indications are that the three schools would prefer to leave in 2023.
“The clock’s ticking, but we’ve had ongoing discussions with the group and they’ve been very amicable,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco told the Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday. “We have great relationships with not only [UCF athletics director] Terry [Mohajir] but [Houston AD] Chris Pezman and [Cincinnati AD] John Cunningham.
“I’m hoping that by spring, we’ll have something resolved.”
According to Aresco, a move needs to happen sooner rather than later because of the logistics involved with the three departures and adding six new member schools in UAB, FAU, Charlotte, North Texas, Rice, and UTSA.
American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco hopes to wrap up exit talks with UCF, Cincinnati and Houston this spring. (Brad Horrigan / Hartford Courant)
“There are a lot of notice periods with everybody involved and you’ve got probably five or six conferences that are affected by all this,” said Aresco. “So, it behooves us to try — if those schools want to leave early — to get something marked out.”
If UCF, Cincinnati and Houston insist on leaving by 2023, the AAC would require a financial settlement.
“We would have to negotiate a settlement and we’re happy to do that,” said Aresco. “We know that the teams that are leaving don’t necessarily want to stick around and if there’s a way to negotiate something fair, we’ll do it.”
As soon as the three schools depart, whether, in 2023 or 2024, Aresco wants to see the six newest member schools join.
“We’ve always said we would be more comfortable with them coming in when the others left,” he added. “We’re trying to coordinate it, so everybody can go and come at the same time. That’s possible, and I hope it is.”
The Big Ten is reportedly considering eliminating its football divisions if the College Football Playoff expands in the future.
The American went to East and West divisions in 2015 but dropped them in 2020 when the departure of UConn left the conference with 11 members. Even when the AAC reconfigures to 14 teams, Aresco isn’t sure the league will return to divisional play.
“I’m not sure we’ll ever go back to divisions even when we get to 14 teams,” Aresco said. “We will look hard about continuing to go without divisions.”
Eliminating divisions would require a waiver as the NCAA bylaws require conferences with 12 or more members to split into groups, but that doesn’t appear to be a concern.
A move like this one centers on a proposed expanded Playoff, including a 12-team model that could feature the highest-ranked six conference champions and six at-large bids.
“Remember, if you have divisions and one of the division winners doesn’t have a good record and that team upsets the top team, you’re going to be out of luck,” Aresco said. “Remember, you have to be a conference champion to be one of the top six and realistically, that’s what we’re going to try to hang our hat on.”
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Matt Murschel at mmurschel@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @osmattmurschel.
Copyright © 2022, Orlando Sentinel
Copyright © 2022, Orlando Sentinel


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