NEWPORT, RI — American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco has some important business on the horizon as an opportunity to begin negotiations on the league’s next television contract will arrive this winter.
Current agreements run through the 2019-20 school year.
Aresco and wife, Sharon, were on hand for the AAC’s annual clambake with the football media kickoff on Monday. Some played golf at windswept Newport National before the feast adjacent to Narragansett Bay.
Aresco got a bargaining chip in pending talks with UCF’s unbeaten season in 2017. The Knights knocked off Auburn in the Peach Bowl after the Tigers had beaten playoff champion Alabama.
“We hope it helps to show how good the league is and that we’re going to be relevant in the college football playoffs,” Aresco said. “That means we’re going to be noticed and our games are going to rate well. UCF cemented themselves as a national brand, which helps a lot.
“I can’t really over-state how important it was, but the league is also strong top to bottom, which I think is really important, too. You have a lot of good inventory. What I think UCF proved is we’re going to have, like with Houston a few years ago, UCF prior to that. We’ve had good teams. Memphis has had big wins, but I think the UCF thing . . . has become a national brand.”
Aresco is a former television executive. There has been speculation as to whether he would seek non-traditional viewing platforms for the AAC.
“First things first,” he said. “We’re going to try to get something done with ESPN and even they’ve got nontraditional platforms with ESPN Plus and that’s our first priority because they’ve been great partners. They provide one-stop shopping. You’ve got ABC. You’ve got ESPN, ESPNU, ESPN2, ESPN3 plus the ESPN Plus app, which is essentially the streaming that other people are doing. So that’s our first priority and then we know the landscape is there.
“Thank goodness it’s there. At least, potentially, there is competition, but we’re really going to try to get something done with ESPN.”
Would ESPN be positioned financially to do a significant deal with the AAC?
“You hope so,” Aresco said. “They’ve just done some big deals. They paid the Big Ten a lot of money. . . . I think they’ll pay when there’s a valuable product that is worth it to them. Who knows? I haven’t been there in a long time. I used to work there, but I’m hoping that they’ll recognize us as a good value proposition and pay us what we’re worth.”
Aresco noted that an official negotiating period begins in February.
Aresco will be speaking at the AAC football media day this morning. The league’s preseason football poll will be released as well.
The AAC’s five-year team was announced Monday and included ECU’s former record-setting receiver Zay Jones, the son of Pirate All-American Robert Jones. The younger Jones played last season with the Buffalo Bills. He had 27 catches for 316 yards and two touchdowns as an NFL rookie.