AP Sports Writer
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The American Athletic Conference wants to be considered a power conference and released a strategic plan on Monday designed to help it improve its stature.
The plan sets numerous goals for athletics, academics, health and safety, marketing and revenue. Among them are filling football stadiums and basketball arenas to between 70 and 80 percent capacity; achieving a graduation rate of at least 90 percent, strengthening the conference’s TV and media rights deals and pushing “a Power 6 narrative.”
The plan features a logo that reads “American Power,” with the “e” in the word Power replaced by the numeral 6.
“We are obviously completely focused and dedicated to being a Power Six conference,” Commissioner Mike Aresco said. “We think we already are. We are doing everything the other guys are doing. This is the first step in terms of writing it down.”
There are currently five power conferences — the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12. They generate the most revenue, are guaranteed top football bowl bids and have been granted some autonomy by the NCAA to establish rules.
The AAC is part of next lower tier, known as the Group of Five.
Aresco said the American already has the athletic achievements of a power conference, citing UConn’s 2014 men’s basketball title and the school’s three women’s basketball national championships since the league was formed in 2013, after the breakup of the old Big East.
He said the key now is to find a “legislative path” to be counted among the other big conferences when it comes to autonomy and post-season consideration, especially in football.
“We’ll also need a better TV deal, we know that,” he said. “But the very first step is to be perceived by you, the media and the fans as a P6 conference. Perception in many cases becomes reality.”
Aresco acknowledged the conference will also need consistent success against power conference opponents to gain that respect. The AAC went just 2-5 during the football bowl season and just 1-2 during this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
There is no mention of expansion in the AAC’s strategic plan and Aresco said that was by design. The conference recently added Wichita State, giving it 12 members for both football and basketball.
“If expansion happens down the road, it happens, but it’s not something we’re planning on. It’s not something we’re focused on,” he said.
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