NEWPORT, R.I. — In a sense, American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco threw a gauntlet in the direction of the so-called Power Five conferences at Tuesday’s football media day.
The Power Five consists of the Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences.
The AAC is considered a level below the Power Five, whose members still dominate the college football landscape — especially when it comes to landing high-profile bowl bids.
That’s a major irritant for Aresco.
“One of my favorite quotations is from Edward R. Murrow, who once said: ‘Difficulty is an excuse history never accepts,’ ” Aresco said. “Difficulty does not daunt us and it’s something we’ll never accept.
“This group exists in the form that it is because we want to compete at (the Power Five level). You’ve got six schools that were once either BCS or old Southwest Conference schools. You’ve also got East Carolina, UCF and Houston who were up-and-coming schools from Conference USA that always wanted to better their situation.”
Aresco’s conclusion: The AAC looks a lot like a Power Five league.
“We’re not precisely like them,” he said. “That’s why I said we’re a challenger brand. But we don’t want to sit back and say, ‘Fine. We’re going to accept something less than what we think we can be.’ We want to fight and compete and see where we can go. I don’t know how far we can get. But I do know we’re going to try.”
By trying, as Aresco noted, hopes the Power Five will morph into the Power Six.
Hello, Navy; hello, championship game
With the addition of Navy, the AAC has split into two six-team divisions and will hold a conference championship game Dec. 5 at the site of the team with the best conference record.
Will that enhance the AAC’s ability to land one of the prestigious New Year’s bowl bids? Especially if it can defeat a Power Five school?
“What’s going to determine our New Year’s Day situation is whether we develop some elite teams, because to go to New Year’s Day, when you’re competing with four other conferences, you’re going to need teams that lose only one or two games or go undefeated,” Aresco said. “It’s hard to lose three games and end up on New Year’s Day.
“We’ve got a good league with a lot of balance. We’re going to need elite teams like the SEC has that finish with one or two losses. We’re also not playing just Power Five teams. We’re playing the best of the best and challenging ourselves. That will toughen us up. New Year’s Day is great, but I want us to win our share of those nonconference games.”
Another New Orleans connection
If it weren’t for Hurricane Katrina, Tulane might have one of the AAC’s premier running backs in Memphis sophomore Doroland Dorceus, who was born and raised in New Orleans.
Dorceus’s father moved to the Houston area after Katrina and Doroland followed soon after.
An all-district selection at Spring High, Dorceus has rushed for 410 yards and four touchdowns in 13 collegiate games.
Those totals might have been higher had he not torn an ACL in the fourth game of last season and was granted a medical redshirt.