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AAC's "Power Six" Push Could Pay Off

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USA TODAY

 

Between the Power Six-themed golf balls, hashtags, pennants and helmets, the American Athletic Conference's push for a seat at the table is in full swing. In terms of trinkets, at least, the league is already spending at a Power Five level.

"It's definitely a conference on the rise, and we should be promoting it as a Power Six," Tulane football coach Willie Fritz said.

During the Monday night clambake preceding the conference's media day, however, the idea of crashing college football's elite quintet was met with shrugged shoulders by conference athletics directors, who as a whole understand the mathematics behind turning five into six.

It's pretty simple: As it currently stands, the television contract linking the College Football Playoff with ESPN, which anted up with $7.3 billion to purchase broadcast rights, runs through 2025 and locks the Group of Five into an access bowl -- afforded the top team from its ranks -- into a New Year's Six bowl.

So there will be no Power Six until -- or unless -- college football's power brokers decide to tear up the existing postseason contract and move to an eight-team field.

In other words, the Power Six movement is a hashtag, a helmet, a golf ball and nothing more.

But that's OK. The American wants to join the Southeastern Conference, Pac-12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten and Big 12 -- because of course it does, even if the idea isn't rooted in reality. For now, however, simply stressing the idea of a Power Six comes with its benefits.

"This is a critical period for the American Athletic Conference, and we approach it with optimism and confidence," league Commissioner Mike Aresco said.

And with a message: We're closer to the Power Five than the Group of Five, goes the league's pitch. If you say it, is it true? If you continue to sell the American as closer to the Power Five than the Group of Five, will that eventually become an accepted reality?

As a tool to produce immediate change, the Power Six theme is useless. As a long-term agent, on the other hand, there's something to be said for the American creating a gap -- even if in name only -- between itself and its Group of Five colleagues.

Think about the potential impact. The American sells itself as a peer of the Power Five. The polls then reflect this gap, both in the preseason, with its trickle-down effect on resulting polls, and to cap the regular season. In turn, the Playoff selection committee views the American's best as a rung above its non-major peers; for the remainder of the four-team format, the conference has the inside track for an access-bowl invite.

There likely will be no movement toward a new postseason scheme for the foreseeable future. But by presenting itself as the class of the Group of Five, the American is in position to claim that seat at the table when the opportunity does arise -- if the league takes care of business on the field.

So there's something forward-looking about the Power Six theme, as awkward and ungainly as it might seem now.

"We want to be accepted eventually as an autonomy Power Six conference because we believe we are already a Power Six conference," Aresco said. "And make no mistake, we do not want simply to compete, we want to win."

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July 19, 2017
 
 
 

 

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