The AAC is fighting to keep championship game

After Connecticut left the conference, The American must meet NCAA guidelines to have a championship game.

Temple football celebrates its American Athletic Conference Championship win on Dec. 3, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland. The AAC applied for a waiver to play the AAC championship game for the 2020-21 season despite having an odd number of teams. | GENEVA HEFFERNAN / FILE PHOTO

The American Athletic Conference is waiting for permission from the NCAA to continue playing their football conference championship game despite only having 11 teams, said Michael Aresco, the conference’s commissioner, before Temple’s game against Memphis on Oct. 12.

The conference may hear back from the NCAA in November, Aresco said. The waiver would allow the AAC to play a championship game for two seasons.

The American had 12 football teams until Connecticut decided to join the Big East in every sport besides football, which is not sponsored by the Big East. The move was announced at a press conference on June 27 in New York City. 

The American currently has an East and West division with six teams each. Temple plays in the East, the division that formally housed UConn. Every year, the winners of each division compete for the conference championship. 

If granted the waiver, the conference will change its structure to have 11 teams without any divisions starting next season and will reflect the scheduling model used by the Big 12 conference, Aresco said. 

The Big 12 has 10 teams, with each having to play all nine teams in the conference. The teams also play three non-conference opponents, giving them their 12-game schedule.

Currently, teams in The American play only eight conference opponents and four non-conference opponents a counting for their 12-game schedule. 

In a conference with 11 teams, like The American, it would be impossible for a team to play all the other 10 teams in the conference and continue to play four non-conference games.

Aresco is hoping to keep scheduling four non-conference opponents, he said. 

“You can’t really play nine games with 11 teams,” Aresco said. “We like the eight conference game model because we are trying to build [the conference]. You do that by playing four non-conference games.”

Temple Athletics declined to comment.

If the conference is not granted the waiver, The American would have to “raid another conference” for a new team or remove a team to bring the total down to 10, Aresco said, adding that the conference doesn’t want to use those options. 

Aresco said the conference is also thinking about adding an independent team, or a team without a conference.

The current independent teams in Division I football are the University of Notre Dame, Liberty University, Army West Point, Brigham Young University, Massachusetts University, and New Mexico State University.  

“If you want to continue the championship game then you have to add a team,” Aresco said. “There are independents, who may not want to join us and if we have to raid a conference that is unfortunate.”

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