By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ The commissioner of the American Athletic Conference says his league is willing to consider providing player stipends to offset the rising cost of attending college, but Mike Aresco is against paying athletes.
Aresco said Wednesday the AAC can explore flexibility in how schools spend their money and look at use of stipends to compensate athletes for the full cost of attending college. It’s a topic that athletic directors across all three NCAA divisions have been discussing.
“But we will not pay players,” Aresco said. “We will not establish an employer-employee relationship. That’s not what college sports is about, and it is the road to ruin. The amateur model may be strained. There’s no question there’s issues. But with intelligent work and revisions, it can continue to work. It has to work.”
The commissioner spoke at the start of the league’s basketball media day at the FedExForum. Aresco said the relationship between schools and players must be strengthened and not abandoned.
He has had his hands full with the AAC pulling together members after the split of the Big East. The changes aren’t over yet with Louisville leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference next year with Rutgers leaving for the Big Ten. The AAC will be adding new members too next summer.
“We have achieved milestone after milestone as we have reinvented ourselves,” Aresco said.
Having the defending national champions as members of the AAC has helped, even if it is for just one season.
Louisville was picked as the preseason favorite to win the inaugural AAC title in the Cardinals’ lone year in this league. The Cardinals, with three starters back, received nine of 10 votes in the poll released. Louisville coach Rick Pitino was asked about the past year and the possibility of an encore.
“The only thing that’s realistic is getting another tattoo,” said Pitino, who got a tattoo after the Cardinals won the national title.
Connecticut received the other vote and is picked to finish second behind the Cardinals. Memphis, which will host the league’s tournament in March, was picked third ahead of Cincinnati, Temple, SMU, Houston, South Florida, UCF and Rutgers
Louisville senior guard Russ Smith was the preseason AAC’s player of the year selection.
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