The American Athletic Conference presidents, athletic directors, senior woman administrators and faculty athletic representatives joined the league's football, men's basketball and women's basketball coaches as the conference held its in-person meetings last week in Vail, Colorado. Meetings were held May 31-June 2 with the leadership of the nine continuing members of The American and the six new members who will officially join the conference July 1.
This year’s meeting came on the heels of another highly successful year in The American, which will be the only Division I conference to have both a 2022-23 New Year's Six bowl winner (Tulane) and NCAA Men's Final Four participant (Florida Atlantic) in its ranks for the 2023-24 season. The American is celebrating its 10th anniversary and has witnessed a decade of outstanding achievements on and off the field.
"The American Athletic Conference meetings were efficient and productive", said FAU Vice President and Athletic Director Brian White, who attended his first annual session."
"We are very much looking forward to starting competition in the American for nearly all sports this fall. This conference will be tremendously competitive across the board and its future, similar to Florida Atlantic’s, is extremely bright."
"After three days of wide-ranging and productive discussions with our administrators and coaches, I am extremely pleased with the direction and prospects of the American Athletic Conference," said Commissioner Mike Aresco. "Although college athletics faces unprecedented challenges in this transitional period, I am confident that those challenges will be met and a sustainable model will emerge that preserves and enhances what makes college sports special. I am very optimistic about the short-term and long-term future of our conference. Our institutions are steadfast in their commitment to keeping The American in the upper tier of Division I conferences.
"I would like to acknowledge the efforts of our outgoing Board chair, Tulane President Michael Fitts, whose insight and guidance have helped elevate the conference and have helped navigate a challenging environment. I would also like to recognize SMU President Dr. Gerald Turner, our outgoing vice chair and one of our original Board members who helped to build the foundation of this powerful conference. I welcome Dr. Philip Rogers of East Carolina as our new Board chair and Brad Carson of Tulsa as our vice chair and look forward to working with them as we embark on a new chapter in our conference's history."
The conference’s strong financial status was highlighted during a presentation of The American’s Finance Committee. The base distribution pool for conference members increased by more than 17% from the approved FY23 budget, while the conference's operating expenses were once again lower than projected.
NCAA President Charlie Baker provided updates on his priorities through his first months in office and spoke to the larger state of college athletics and the challenges and opportunities that are ahead, specifically in the areas of sports wagering and name, image and likeness policies.
Commissioner Aresco offered his perspective on the new 12-team College Football Playoff structure, which begins in the 2024 season. Discussion centered on how The American will continue to build on its competitive positioning and the sustained success it has achieved in the New Year's Six and playoff structures - a remarkable eight New Year's Six appearances, including a College Football Playoff appearance in 2021 - and how the conference might benefit from an enhanced CFP revenue model.
The athletic directors approved an adjustment to the conference's football medical observer policies. Beginning with the 2023 season, medical replay capabilities will be available to both sidelines. The American's athletic directors also approved a set of minimum standards for television productions in the sports of soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball, softball and lacrosse on the ESPN+ platform as the conference continues to make high-level telecasts of conference sports available to fans on the leading streaming service. They also considered a number of factors designed to improve the individual schools’ metrics in men’s and women’s basketball, including strategic nonconference scheduling and participation in quality in-season tournaments.
The American unanimously approved a number of initiatives proposed by the conference’s senior woman administrators, including the return of an eight-team conference championship tournament in women's volleyball. The American Women's Volleyball Championship will return as of the Fall 2024 season and will take place on the campus of the previous year's regular-season champion. The conference additionally approved the implementation of regular-season scheduling parameters in women's volleyball that include designating the first four weekends of competition for nonconference opportunities, followed by eight weekends of regular-season play.
The 2024 American Athletic Conference Men's Tennis Championship was awarded to Tulsa, while Rice was chosen to host the 2026 American Women's Tennis Championship. The 2025 men's and women's tennis championships had been previously awarded to Memphis, while SMU was previously tabbed as the site of the 2024 women's championship and the 2026 men's championship.
Lynda Black, Associate Professor of Law at Memphis and the chair of The American’s faculty athletics representatives, presented on behalf of the conference’s Academic Consortium. The Consortium has provided funding for conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee initiatives, including the Powerful Minds mental health campaign as well as diversity and inclusion efforts on each campus, and the conference’s annual Academic Symposium, which will be hosted by SMU in 2024.
Temple field hockey student-athlete Emma Nesbitt represented The American’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and provided updates in areas of student-athlete advocacy, civic engagement, diversity and inclusion and mental health.
Finally, The American announced the following appointments to existing conference committees, effective June 2:
· Dr. Philip Rogers, chancellor of East Carolina University, will serve as Chair of the American Athletic Conference Board of Directors, beginning a two-year term. Brad Carson, president of the University of Tulsa, will serve as Vice Chair. Ray Watts, president of the University of Alabama Birmingham, and Sharon Gaber, chancellor of the University of North Carolina Charlotte, have all been appointed to the Board of Directors Executive Committee through 2025.
- Dr. Taylor Eighmy, president of the University of Texas San Antonio, and Reginald DesRoches, president of Rice University, have been appointed to the Board of Directors Audit Committee through 2025.
- Mike Hill (Charlotte) will serve on the Athletic Directors Executive Committee. He will be joined by Cal Christian (Faculty Athletics Representative, Florida Atlantic) through 2025. Tulane men's basketball student-athlete Sion James will join the committee as chair of The American's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
- Kevin Saal (Wichita State) and Jared Mosley (North Texas) will serve on the Athletic Directors Finance Committee. They will be joined on the committee by Lynda Black (Faculty Athletics Representative, Memphis) through 2025.
- Stacy Mosely (Rice) will serve as vice chair of the Senior Woman Administrators Committee through 2025. The returning chair is Lauren Ashman of Memphis.
- Cal Christian (East Carolina) will chair the Faculty Athletic Representatives Committee through 2025.
- Lisa Campos (Athletic Director, UTSA) and Clay Stoldt (Faculty Athletics Representative, Wichita State) will serve on the conference’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee through 2025.