No matter how you look at it, the American Athletic Conference has to be smiling this morning. There is no other conference in the country that can boast that they are home to the 2013-2014 Men’s and Women’s NCAA Division I basketball champions the Huskies from the University of Connecticut. If you add to those accomplishments a BCS Bowl win by the University of Central Florida and then there is SMU losing a heart breaker to Minnesota 65-63 in the Championship Game of the N.I.T tournament in Madison Square Garden.
All in all in their first year as the AAC you must give a great deal of credit to Commissioner Mike Aresco for helping to pick the right schools who have very bright futures. He was asked after UConn won the Men’s basketball title Monday night if he thought that the conference that media wrote of as dead got the last laugh?
“No, not all all. What I have is a feeling of quiet satisfaction.” A class comment from someone who knows that his teams did all the talking needed in both the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments.
He told USA Today last night “I’m really proud of our presidents, our athletic directors, our coaches, our student-athletes and my office staff,” Aresco said. “Because everybody went through a lot, took a lot of shots, persevered. I think this is one of those great, special nights. You know, the Fiesta Bowl was one, the Men’s Championship was one, and with the Women’s Title tonight that is very good start.”
He also told USA Today”It’s all a little ahead of schedule, Aresco admitted.
“I think we exceeded expectations,” he said. “I thought these schools have a chance to be competitive and to do something special at some point. But that it would happen this quickly, that we would win a Fiesta Bowl and we would win a national championship in basketball, we would be in the NIT final, we would win the women’s NIT and take home the Men’s and Women’s national championship, is a remarkable accomplishment.”
And here’s where it gets interesting: If under the radar nationally — no longer a power conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision, losing Louisville to the ACC after this season — the American has proven to be an underdog with bite.
“You know, I’ve been saying for a few days we had to gain respect the old-fashioned way: we had to earn it. I think we did,” Aresco said. “I think the future’s bright. I think the future’s bright for our conference.”