As of yesterday, the American Athletic Conference is a real thing now. With real teams and a real website. But we know nothing is real until it’s proven on the field and court. That’s why we need a checklist of the things that need to happen for the league to get credibility over the next year.
1) Louisville needs to win a lot, but not win it all in football. It’s hard to deny the kind of exposure U of L is going to give the conference in its last year as a member. This has long been one of the most underrated athletic departments in the country, and it finally has the kind of attention it really deserves. People will watch the Ville on TV because it’s them and might even forget they’re in the American – which is the root of the problem. Louisville relevance for one year is good, but them winning it all spells doom for the future of this league. Cincinnati or Central Florida representation in the league’s final BCS game would go a heck of a lot further for the league than one of the games showcasing another outgoing member. Here’s to hoping the Cardinals finish 10-2 (5-2), and not 12-0.
2) Win out-of-conference games in all sports. Football is the big one here because the opportunities are so huge. Connecticut gets Michigan, USF gets Miami, Cincinnati plays Purdue, Central Florida gets a home date with South Carolina. Win even half of these games and people will stop joking about this conference really quickly. The opportunity is certainly there.
3) Put five teams in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. It shouldn’t be too hard with Louisville on the slate for 364 more days. But this is far from a cake walk. This essentially means every team that is being heralded as a basketball power in this league (Uconn, Cincinnati, Temple, and Memphis) need to perform. In the off chance that an SMU or Central Florida decide to join the conversation, it could mean a bright future. If Louisville only joins a pair of other schools, be prepared for the dark ages.
4) No academic scandals. No more postseason bans, no NCAA probs, no recruiting violations, no SMU players receiving payrolls (Sorry, I had to). On and off the field, this conference needs to be first class.
5) Improvements in the academic standings in the US News and World Report. Yes, you read that correctly. And yes, it’s a big deal. Whether or not you agree with how schools are ranked, it’s still used for perception. And right now, the American is solidly behind the ACC, BIG, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC in academics. Alumni giving is a huge component of that, and schools with great athletics tend to do better in alumni giving (seeing the connection here?). If the schools start being recognized as great institutions, the image of the conference will only be enhanced.
Image Credit: SMU Football
Can you think of better things the league needs? Let us know below!