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July 23, 2013

Around the AAC: No Liberty for American

The American Athletic Conference bowl picture remains very much up in the air.

Two weeks ago, league commissioner Mike Aresco told Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times that he was hopeful they could close a deal to send the American champion to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis.


That doesn't appear to be in the cards. Reports on Tuesday indicated the Liberty is on the verge of signing a new six-year agreement with the SEC and Big 12, though the AAC could remain a backup.

"I remain hopeful the AAC can be involved in our bowl arrangement in case we don't have a qualifying team from the SEC or the Big 12," Liberty Bowl executive director Steve Ehrhart told the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

It's a blow for the American, who were hoping the offer of their champion would be more appealing than a lower-seeded SEC team. It appears the Liberty may have made up ground with the SEC, who reportedly will add the bowl to their middle-tier pool which includes the Music City, Outback, Gator and Texas bowls.

With the Liberty out of the mix, it's unclear which bowl could become the American's top-seeded tie-in. The league believes they'll send their champion to an "access bowl" more years than not, but that's not a guarantee.

Beginning in 2014, the highest-rated champion from a pool of five conferences - including the AAC, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West and Sun Belt - gain a berth in one of the College Football Playoff-operated bowl games which will be played on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. Any team that finishes in the top four as selected by a yet-to-be-named committee, regardless of conference, will compete in the semifinals with an opportunity to play for the national championship.

Bowl contracts expire at the end of this season, so leagues have been scrambling to finalize future tie-ins. The American has one confirmed agreement for 2014 and beyond: The Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md., which will feature one of the AAC's third through sixth picks. The opponent on the other side, though not yet announced, is expected to be the Atlantic Coast Conference, which will send a seventh through 10th selection.

Aresco has previously indicated the AAC expects to retain tie-ins to a pair of ESPN-owned bowls: The Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg and the Birmingham Bowl. Though nothing has been announced, the Tampa Bay Times reported earlier this month that the Beef 'O' Brady's opponent could alternate between the ACC and C-USA. The Birmingham Bowl could have a lower-seeded tie-in with the SEC, though with the likelihood of the SEC qualifying enough teams to fill that slot could be in question.

The American has also been working to create a new bowl game which would be played in Miami at Marlins Park. Earlier this month, Aresco stated he had talking with the PAC-12 and Big Ten about a possible tie-in.

No word on the AAC's level of interest, but organizers of the Detroit-based Little Caesars Pizza Bowl say they'd like the American to face a team out of the MAC.

New league, new uniforms: UCF won't be the only American team sporting new uniforms this fall. Memphis, Houston and UConn have each revealed new designs this summer.

On Tuesday, Houston unveiled multiple jersey and pant combinations which include both red and white helmets. CougarsDen.com has a photo gallery.

Last week at their women's clinic, Memphis revealed their new duds which include an alternate chrome helmet. Could that helmet makes its first appearance in the Tigers' first AAC game on Oct. 5 against UCF?

UConn will have one of the most unique helmets in college football season as the school took to Twitter last week to publish photographs of the final design. Keeping the sides a solid white, an image of the Husky mascot is prominent on the front of the helmet with the UConn wordmark logo displayed on the back. A blue version is possible, but UConn plans to have the white helmet be their primary look. In April, UConn released images of the new uniforms.

This and that: The American Football Media Day takes place a week from today on Tuesday, July 30 in Newport, R.I. UCF's player representatives will be a pair of senior offensive line starters in twin brothers Jordan McCray and Justin McCray. UCF holds their first football practice the following day...

USF coach Willie Taggart is clamping down on practice access for fans and media. The Bulls will begin the preseason in Tampa before moving camp to Vero Beach from Aug. 10-17, which will have only one open practice for fans on Aug. 17. Media can attend the first 30 minutes of all practices, but then have to leave the premises. Previously, the workouts in Vero Beach had been completely open.





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