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May 8, 2013Commissioner Mike Aresco says the American Athletic Conference is working to establish a new bowl game and he's hopeful they can retain tie-ins with the Russell Athletic and Pinstripe bowls.
Aresco made the comments to Tony Comas and Kyle Israel, hosts of "Comas and Kyle," during his Wednesday afternoon guest appearance on 810 CBS Sports Radio in Orlando.
College football bowl contracts expire at the end of the upcoming season and leagues have been working this spring to solidify lineups for 2014 and beyond.
Reports have indicated the Russell Athletic Bowl, played locally at the Citrus Bowl, may be dropping The American in order to sign a deal with the Big 12. The Pinstripe Bowl has been rumored to feature an ACC/Big Ten matchup.
"At this point, bowls are a top priority of ours," Aresco said. "We were visiting with the Russell Athletic Bowl yesterday. We really want to keep the Russell Athletic. It's a good bowl for us with UCF right here. We'd like to keep the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City. I think we have a good shot. Some may have heard the ACC has a good chance or other conferences, but we're putting our best foot forward. We're showing bowls what we can do with arrangements that make sense for those bowls."
While Aresco said they have a chance with the Russell Athletic and Pinstripe, he admitted the odds were against them in retaining the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. The SEC is likely moving in because they're losing their tie-in to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, which has become one of the new access bowls.
"The Belk Bowl will be more difficult," Aresco said. "But we haven't given up. That's a great group of people there, but that one is dicier."
Aresco said they're looking to solidify anywhere from six to eight future bowl tie-ins. He said they "intend to keep" the Liberty Bowl (Memphis) and Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl (St. Petersburg) and would be meeting with ESPN about opportunities in their bowls.
Later in the interview, he dropped the nugget about creating an entirely new bowl game.
"We're looking to establish our own bowl game in a way that makes sense," Aresco said. "I think we can get a good opponent. We're looking to do innovative things with our group."
Aresco also talked about the league's new name - the American Athletic Conference - and how they prefer to be called "The American" and not the "AAC."
"The American is how we want to brand ourselves," Aresco said. "The AAC acronym will probably be used, but we shy away from it because it's similar to the ACC and we're also trying to be sensitive to the Appalachian Athletic Conference."
He said they initially had a list of around 200 potential conference names, which was whittled down to a few that were brought before league presidents and athletic directors. Names involving "American, Metro and National" were the most discussed.
"Long story short, I kept seeing American Conference," Aresco said. "Then I saw American Athletic Conference. I thought, 'This is a good name.' Our presidents seemed to like it. A good majority. We did focus groups to see if the name would hold up. The focus group liked it. Someone said, 'How can anybody not like American?' We did an online closed poll of 1,000 people and the American did well. The presidents approved it. Nobody disliked it... I think it's a good, solid name that I think will be lasting and durable."
Aresco said the conference logo will be released very soon.
"We've been going to campuses (showing the group of logos) and it's generated a tremendous positive reaction," Aresco said. "(UCF coach George O'Leary) saw it. We've got one campus left to go. Tomorrow we're meeting with the branding group. I think you all are really going to like these marks. It's strong, inventive and perfectly adequate to be on the field. "American" could potentially be in the endzone, that word with a group of marks as well. It depends on how people want to use them. We'll have choices. We're doing a logo that can customized and color-coded by school.
"Everything will be rolled out in the next 2-3 weeks. We have a spring meeting from May 20-22 in Ponte Vedra Beach where we'll get the final sign-off and decide which marks will be the primary. You're going to be excited about it."
Aresco also feels the once-volatile state of college realignment is likely at a standstill following the recent ACC grant of rights.
"We certainly hope so," Aresco said. "But you never know in this business. You never know where something could come form, but I think there's a general feeling and consensus that we've put the brakes on. Obviously if the ACC was vulnerable, and if something happened there, there's a residual effect that could have had an impact on us. So this is stability the whole system needs. We want it. Fellow commissioners are saying the same thing. Even those in the so-called "Power Five." It gives our group a chance to consolidate and work hard to achieve goals knowing there's not another shoe falling in the short term. I don't know about long term... Overall, it's a welcome thing."
He also touched on the recent television deal with ESPN.
"Our TV deal, in terms of exposure, is as good as any other conference," Aresco said. "The only difference is money. Because of the turmoil we didn't get the dollars, but we're still in far better shape than other conferences that have been compared to us. We'll have other sources of revenue with buyouts and marketing possibilities. We have two TV deals. We have the CBS network deal for basketball as well as the primary ESPN deal. We have potential to do others. We're part of the BCS. We have a seat at the table. Our team will have to be the best of five, but I think we can be. We're optimistic about the future. We know we have a lot of work to do, but I think when our contract is renegotiated down the road we'll do better financially."
A conference championship game is also in the works, though it probably won't happen until 2015 when Navy comes on board.
"We absolutely plan to have a championship game," Aresco said. "If the NCAA changes the rules to have a conference championship game at 11 members, we'd consider it (for 2014), but I don't think that's going to happen. It will probably be the home site of the highest-ranked division winner. It's an important part of our plan. No question about it. I think it will be very successful. ABC or ESPN (for TV), and likely ABC because they'll have a window for it. It will be great exposure.
Aresco also spoke at-length about teams in the league and how he feels UCF will be one of the "future cornerstones" of The American.
"What we do on the field and on the court will define us," Aresco said. "Look at UCF and what George (O'Leary) has done. Look at the potential at USF and the potential for this rivalry. This is what's going to build this conference. I think we've got top-of-the-line basketball already, especially with Louisville in the conference for another year. I think we've got 5-6 tournament teams.
"In football we're the sleeping giant with Cincinnati, the two Texas schools, the two Florida schools, Navy, East Carolina. We're going to get greater exposure than ever before. People will see what great programs we have. I think we're going to be in position to challenge those five other conferences. We still think we can do that. We're not pretending that we're the SEC or Big Ten, but nobody else is in that sense. Look at the Big 12, PAC-12, ACC. We've had a good ranking with our teams. We want to compete and we'll have that opportunity."