With the UConn Huskies leaving the American Athletic Conference in 2020 to become a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Independent, the league will be left with an imbalance of 11 teams.
Speaking with Commercial Appeal columnist Mark Giannotto and his radio show co-host Jeffrey Wright on 92.9ESPN on Tuesday, American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco gave his thoughts on the imbalance and the talk of adding or removing a member.
“We think playing 10 (conference) games is out of the question for all sorts of reasons,” Aresco said. “We also don’t want to be forced to add a team and raid another conference. We also don’t want to be forced to jettison a team. We would never do that.”
With UConn out, the American will consist of 11 teams next season — Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, Navy, SMU, Temple, Tulane, Tulsa, UCF, and USF.
In order to alleviate a division imbalance, the American has filed a waiver with the NCAA so that they can eliminate their divisions and play a conference championship consisting of the two best teams.
“We’ve already started the waiver process with the NCAA to be able to play a championship game with 11 teams and not have to play a round-robin,” Aresco said.
Under current NCAA rules, conferences that are not split into divisions can play a conference championship game if they play a round-robin schedule during the regular-season. That is, every team plays every other team in the conference.
Currently, the Big 12 is the only FBS conference that plays this format. The conference has 10 teams, plays a nine-game conference schedule, and holds a championship game.
In the FBS, teams are allowed to play 12 games per season. An NCAA exemption to rule 22.214.171.124.1 allows for a conference championship game with limitations:
(b) Conference Championship Game. One conference championship game:
- (1) Between division champions of a conference that is divided into two divisions (as equally balanced in number as possible) and conducts round-robin, regular-season competition in each division; or
- (2) Between the top two teams in the conference standings following full round-robin regular-season competition among all members of the conference.
Aresco stated today that he thinks the NCAA will grant their waiver to hold a championship game with 11 teams and no divisions.
“We have to get the waiver from the NCAA but I really believe that we have a good chance to get it because we have so many strong arguments in favor of it.”
If the American does receive the exemption, the next process for the conference will be determining their football scheduling format moving forward.