TAMPA — In the sobering wake of Hurricane Irma, as first responders mobilized and power trucks converged on the Southeast in merciful convoys, the American Athletic Conference brandished its own level of compassion.
It wasn’t as noble as a paramedic working overtime, or as courageous as a lineman delicately mending a transformer 50 feet above the ground. The AAC’s efforts were more altruistic.
But in those anxious days, the American finally became a power conference. Or at the very least, a power community.
“I think people will always remember this as something that showed the cohesion of the conference,” commissioner Mike Aresco said.
Only four days after Irma churned its way up the spine of the Florida peninsula, causing three games (Memphis-UCF, Georgia Tech-UCF and USF-Connecticut) to be called off and putting the conference slate into disarray, the league announced a revised schedule agreed upon by all 12 schools.
As a result, every AAC team still will play a normal eight-game conference schedule. Controversial divisional tie-breakers (currently based on winning percentage, not head-to-head results) will be averted.
And the league’s chance at the New Year’s Six bowl berth, awarded to the top-ranked Group of Five champ, won’t be compromised.
“This was really a great example of a young conference that came together and really worked for the good,” USF athletic director Mark Harlan said. “When we crown a champion in the first week of December, we’ll truly crown a champion.”
But the revision required sacrifice, a little cajoling, outside-the-box thinking, expedience and — by Aresco’s estimation — at least 1,000 phone calls between his office and member schools.
“That was an intense five or six days, I’ll tell you that,” he said.
The scurrying actually began a few days before Irma’s arrival, when it became clear Memphis-UCF and USF-UConn — both originally slated for Sept. 9 — wouldn’t …read more