AAC commits to full cost of attendance for athletes _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND

Not wanting to get left behind, the American Athletic Conference, including incoming member Tulane, on Friday committed itself to following the lead of the so-called Power Five conferences in their proposed NCAA governance changes, including supplying the full cost of attendance for athletes.

“We are working to position ourselves with the five equity conferences on this,” AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco said at the end of the league’s spring meetings in Key Biscayne, Fla. “Our goal coming out of this meeting making sure that our emphasis is on student-athlete welfare.

“That’s the key — not being at a competitive advantage or disadvantage.”

The Power Five — the SEC, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12 and the ACC — have been formulating a plan for more autonomy from the rest of the NCAA membership with a clearer picture of the entire proposal expected this summer, when the NCAA Steering Committee issues its recommendations. The Power Five already control the new College Football Playoff which operates outside NCAA auspices.

The AAC, which in its earlier incarnation as the Big East was part of the old BCS power structure, is seeking to share in at least part of the NCAA autonomy.

“We’d love to be in the room with them, and maybe somewhere down the road we will be,” Aresco said. “We realize that some of those schools have greater resources than some of ours, but we have more than a lot of people realize.”

While some of the proposals include financial costs, such as adding cost of attendance to scholarship packages and long-term medical provisions, others such as liberalizing transfer rules to eliminate having to sit out a year from those transferring into the Power Five, have been seen as increasing the gap between those schools and the Group of Five (AAC, Conference USA, Sun Belt, MAC and Mountain West) that make up the rest of the Football Championship Subdivision.

“The money involved is not exorbitant,” Aresco said. “But it does represent a commitment.

“But we also want this conference to compete at the highest level while maintaining the collegiate model. We’re talking about taking care of the 21st Century student-athlete.”

Football divisions finalized

As expected the league announced its football divisions starting in 2015, when Navy becomes a football-only member.

The Midshipmen will play in the West along with Tulane, Tulsa, SMU, Houston and Memphis. East Carolina, Connecticut, Temple, Central Florida, South Florida and Cincinnati will make up the West.

Navy had requested to play in the West because of its strong recruiting ties to Texas, while Cincinnati wanted to be in the East because of its emphasis on recruiting in Florida.

Along with division foes, each team will play three teams from the other division with the lineup changing every two years.

Those pairings were not announced, but it is expected that the two Texas schools will be in separate groups as will the two Florida schools, assuring all teams at least one road game in those states every two seasons.

The conference championship game, which also debuts in 2015, will be played at the home of the school with the highest ranking in the new CFP standings as to better enhance the winners’ chance of playing in one of the access bowls (Cotton, Fiesta or Peach).

The highest-ranked team from the Group of Five is assured of a berth in one of those bowls.

Women’s opponents set

Tulane already knew defending women’s basketball national champion UConn would be a home opponent for next season.

The Wave’s other home conference games will be against Memphis, Tulsa, Houston, SMU, Temple, East Carolina, South Florida and Central Florida. Conference road games will be against everyone except Memphis which will be replaced by Cincinnati.

The conference tournament will be played at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Stockton now senior coach

With the recent retirement of baseball coach Rick Jones, women’s basketball coach Lisa Stockton becomes Tulane’s longest-tenured head coach at 21 seasons.

Stockton was hired in 1994, one year after Jones. Both had been assistants at Georgia Tech.

“Rick did a phenomenal job,” Stockton said. “I am sorry to see him go.”

Although Stockton’s two decades at the school are significant, she still has a ways to go to catch Emmet Pare, who was Tulane’s tennis coach from 1934-73.

“That’s not going to happen,” said Stockton, who recently signed a contract extension though the 2019 season. “I’ll be out of here long before then.”