Mike Aresco, Commissioner of the Conference Stew That U of H Is in Now, Speaks
On the college football calendar nowadays, everything seemingly has its own season.
Years ago, before social media, before a thousand television channels, before those channels shelling out billions of dollars for broadcasting rights, there were essentially two college football seasons: the regular season and the bowl season.
But now we also have recruiting season, spring ball, training camp, and for the time being, Johnny Manziel season (which was previously known as "summer"). And we have media day season, the rotating circuit of conference media days that greases the skids for the start of the regular season.
In a bizarro wrestling card setup, media season is marked by the main event leading off (SEC Media Days in Hoover, AL) and gradually peters out to where the lesser conferences have their day in what's left of the sun.
Which brings us to the American Athletic Conference's media day on Tuesday, the "conference stew" of left-behind Big East members that includes the University of Houston.
When Mike Aresco, commissioner of "The American" (as they prefer to be called), took over this athletics land of misfit toys on August 14, 2012, it was called the Big East, it included several Catholic schools that don't play Division I-A football, and while it was big and somewhat messy, it had a recognizable name.
It also had a spot at the "big boy" table for college football, a BCS bowl bid. To be fair, the American still lays claim to the Big East's guaranteed BCS bowl spot for the final year of the BCS' existence before the College Football Playoff system begins in 2014. At that point, the "big boy" line will be redrawn with the AAC likely on the wrong side of it.
Right now, the AAC is like one of those run down neighborhoods that happens to find itself in an incredibly nice school district. Unfortunately for them, they're about to get redistricted at season's end, back to the impoverished part of town.
But Media Day is about hope, or at the very least, creating the illusion of hope, so Aresco in meeting with the media on Tuesday morning in Newport, RI (and really, doesn't "Newport, RI" scream college football?), went into full on Iraqi Information Minister mode.
Let's take a peek at a few of my favorite Ares-quotes (my comments, as always, preceded by "SP:"): "I want to thank our outgoing chair, Judy Genshaft, president of University of South Florida; our incoming chair, R. Gerald Turner, of SMU; and vice chair Susan Herbst of UConn for their leadership and commitment to this conference and its future." SP: Yes, the vice chair of this mess is the president of the school that would knock over every piece of furniture trying to run out of the room if the Atlantic Coast Conference came calling. Sadly, UConn leaving and Herbst having to abdicate her throne as vice chair would barely crack the Top Ten of "Most Awkward AAC Moments" of the last twelve months.
"Through it all we adhered to the spirit of something Edward R. Murrow once said: Difficulty is an excuse that history never accepts." SP: Edward R. Murrow quotes, that'll throw them off the scent! Then one sentence later, Aresco got off this gem...
"And now we look ahead. We're not planning for yesterday. We're planning for tomorrow." SP: Yikes, Aresco went from quoting Edward R. Murrow to quoting Little Carmine from The Sopranos...
"Our list of milestone achievements over the past several months attest to our determination and resolve to embrace a bright future. Among these, a Catholic 7 settlement that allowed us to relaunch our conference this year..." SP: "Settlement" leaves out the spirit of what transpired -- the fact that the Catholic 7 escaped the conference like all of those "ne'er do wells" sprinting out of the prison after they were released by Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Also, as part of the "settlement" they forfeited the "Big East" name which Aresco had just months before been touting as one of the biggest equity pieces the conference had.
"....An internal financial arrangement that promotes unity among our schools, TV deals with ESPN and CBS that provide unprecedented exposure and branding for our conference and our teams with two of the world's most important media companies...." SP: ....a financial arrangement that is a fraction of the deal that was left on the table by Aresco's predecessor, John Marinatto.
"....Expansion that includes East Carolina ￼University in all sports and the University of Tulsa in all sports..." SP: How did they pull off that coup?
"...and last but not least, a strong new name and dynamic new logos." SP: Is naming your conference and coming up with a logo something you list as an "accomplishment"? Isn't this overstating it a little bit, a little like putting things like "Completed Christmas shopping, 2012" and "Wallpapered baby's room, 2009" on your resume?
"And let us not forget that the champions in Division I men's and women's basketball reside in this conference and earn their championships in this conference." SP: Ok, this is the first of several times that Aresco touts the accomplishments of Louisville in his speech, a slippery slope at best considering that they're spending the next several months boxing up all of their belongings to move to the ACC at 12:01 a.m. on the first day possible in 2014. (Rutgers, same thing. They leave for the Big Ten in 2014.) You may want to pump the brakes on that, Mike. I don't know how easily you'll be able to "Mad Lib" the accolades of East Carolina and Tulsa into your speech next year.
"Our schools are housed in population centers like New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, Tampa, Orlando, Hartford, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Memphis. That footprint alone covers more than 20 million households." SP: Congratulations for having a bunch of schools in really big cities. By my count, the only school whose teams are at the front of the pecking order in those cities are UConn (Hartford) and Louisville (who's leaving in less than a year). Take a poll of Philly, Dallas, Houston, Tampa, and Cincy residents and ask where those schools rank on the landscape in comparison to the professional teams in town. This is the great myth upon which the financial model for collegiate TV rights is built -- gather up schools in really big cities even if, by and large, interest in those schools is generally exclusive to their respective alumni bases, if that.
"We feature three teams that won ten games last year: Cincinnati, UCF, and Louisville. Only the SEC had more teams with double-digit wins." SP: Ok, seriously, just stop it already. STOP IT, MIKE ARESCO. First of all, one of your three schools you brag about winning ten games did it in C-USA, which is like bragging about winning a spelling bee against third graders. One of the other two is Louisville, who again IS LEAVING AFTER THE SEASON. Does Aresco know they're leaving?
"Nine of our ten teams return their outstanding quarterbacks, two of whom have seen significant action in a BCS game: Garrett Gilbert of SMU who rallied Texas to a near comeback in the National Championship game against Alabama in 2010, and Teddy Bridgewater who had a great game against Florida in last year's Sugar Bowl." SP: Your marketing spin prominently features Garrett Gilbert. You're fucked.
"Five of our ten teams have been ranked in the top 10 since 2006." SP: Really? Because six of the SEC's teams (the conference you just compared yourself to) were ranked in the top ten last season.
"We will have access to the highest level of the postseason in subsequent years where there are twice as many opportunities, four versus two, to play for the National Championship, but also beginning in 2014 we'll have an opportunity to play in a New Year's Day or New Year's Eve host Bowl if we qualify. And we think we will." SP: This is the same conversation I had with myself in the mirror for years when I thought I could score a date with Jennifer Aniston.
"We're playing three teams ranked in the final AP Top Ten: Notre Dame, Texas A&M, and South Carolina." SP: Somewhere the commissioner of bugs is conducting a press conference where he is bragging about his matchup with the windshield.
"And look at what our teams have done on the field over the past five years. We've had nonconference wins against Baylor, Boston College, Florida State, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas State, Maryland, Miami, Mississippi State, Missouri, NC State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Penn State, South Carolina, TCU, Texas Tech, UCLA, Virginia Tech, West Virginia. The list goes on. I haven't mentioned them all. In subsequent years our teams will play the likes of Notre Dame, UCLA, BYU, Missouri, Texas, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Baylor, TCU, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Syracuse, Mississippi State, NC State, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Army. The list is extensive. It goes on. I didn't mention everyone." SP: This is a strong play by Aresco...just keep listing all the good schools on your collective schedule for the next ten years and eventually all that people hear in the room are the names of all these good football schools and the sheep will automatically think that, by proxy, the AAC schools are good football schools. Subliminal advertising at its best.
Just keep screaming positive news, even if it's fleeting or incorrect, and maybe, just maybe, people will believe.
This guy knows...
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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