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AAC Staying At 11 Football Members; What’s The Impact On BYU?

PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 16: A singular view of a BYU Cougars football helmet during the game between the Cougars and the Wisconsin Badgers at LaVell Edwards Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

NEWPORT, R.I. – With UConn headed to the Big East, many around college athletics have wondered what the next steps in membership would look like for the American Athletic Conference.

On Tuesday at the American’s Media Day event, Commissioner Mike Aresco addressed the media to basically put some closure to any speculation regarding realignment.

“At this point, we are comfortable with 12 teams in men’s and women’s basketball and 11 in football, and have no plans to add a member to replace UConn,” said Aresco.  “We are not targeting anyone.  We are not even sure at this point when UConn will be exiting, negotiations are ongoing.”

Aresco continued, “Down the road, if there is someone interested in us who could enhance our strength and brand, we would consider it.  And I would reiterate what I have said in numerous media interviews – we are a powerful conference in both major sports and Olympic sports and will continue our Power 6 campaign with renewed energy and determination.”

Any pleas for BYU to go to the AAC can be silenced at this time.

Impact on BYU

The impact on BYU from the AAC’s decision to stay at 11 football members means business as usual for the Cougars.  As you read in Commissioner Aresco’s commentary above, “if there is someone interested in us who could enhance our strength and brand, we would consider it.”  Does that not sound like BYU?

There was no incentive for BYU to move to a Group of Five conference at this time.  BYU has had to grind through the first eight years of life as an FBS Independent with schedules that were not glamorous, especially for home fans in the state of Utah.  Now BYU is starting to see Power Five programs come to Provo.  Case in point this upcoming fall as the Cougars will host three teams from the Pac-12 conference at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Also, the financial impact of breaking off scheduling contracts would be a financial nightmare.  There are out clauses if BYU moves into a Power Five conference, but no language stating BYU can get out of games if they go to a Group of Five league.

Many of the Power Five tv agreements expire in 2024 and 2025.  It’s not a coincidence that there is a significant dip in the number of games BYU has on their future schedules starting in the 2025 season.  Between the 2020 to 2024 schedules, BYU has 49 of their 60 scheduling dates already filled. From 2025 to 2030, the Cougars have only nine dates scheduled to opponents with four of those games scheduled for the 2025 season.

The next important domino to fall for BYU in regards to realignment is the length of the next ESPN contract for home BYU football games.  Like the Cougars future schedules, I would expect that this next TV deal will give BYU the flexibility to have options when the time comes for another wave of potential realignment.

If BYU had been interested in the AAC at this time, they would have been welcomed with open arms.  The Cougars have a good working relationship with the AAC as both parties like scheduling games and there will be opportunities down the road.  But at this time, there was no incentive for BYU to take a move back to a G5 league.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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