The title alone points to the problem. When this conference was announced, you couldn’t find a sports writer or TV analyst anywhere that gave it a fighting chance. The marquee names up and left the conference, and, perhaps worst of all, so did a brand.
It’s not an easy world to start a new conference, when so many casual fans identify with only what they’re used to. Still, the American Athletic Conference had a first year for the ages.
In both football and men’s basketball, Louisville was the clear frontrunner, coming off Sugar Bowl and National Championship wins. How wonderful it is for Mike Aresco and the American that UCF knocked off a legitimate opponent in Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl and UConn went on to win the national championship in hoops (men’s and women’s no less).
There are still harsh realities to face. In the new playoff era, the American Athletic Conference splits about $86 million with the Sun Belt, Conference USA, Mountain West and MAC. Sounds like decent money, right? Unless you’re comparing it to the $90 million that each of the “power” five conferences receive. Then you compare media deals… oh boy. Quick math update: The American teams each receive about $2 million in media revenue with their current ESPN/CBS deal. Add another $1.5 million from the playoff fund, and that’s $3.5 million per team in the American.
For comparison’s sake, the average ACC team will rake in about $6.5 million from the playoff fund and about $20 million from their media deal. ACC team $26.5 million, American team $3.5 million. Quite the difference.
But as it is, there’s a competitive framework in place to keep the league moving forward, and its brand and money can only increase.
Image Credit: Lost Letterman