To accommodate UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston's earlier departures to the Big 12, American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco stated to ESPN on Friday.
AAC bylaws require that schools give notice for 27 months before they leave the school and pay a $10,000,000 buyout fee. Aresco stated that if the three schools adhered to the bylaws, their exit date would have been July 1, 2024. Although the talks have not yet taken place, Aresco stated that he expected them to enter negotiations to adjust their exit fee.
He said that this is a common practice because it's not an ideal situation to know when someone's leaving. You can often get a higher exit fee to allow them to leave earlier, so we'll definitely be willing. However, I cannot tell you exactly what year.
Terry Mohajir, UCF's athletic director, stated that his school is open to all options.
Mohajir stated that "we're going to examine where we stand with our contract with American," and "all options are open right at this time."
Aresco stated that his conference will move "deliberately, expeditiously" in order to add 2 to 4 teams to the league and increase the number of players to 10, 12, or more after the departures. Aresco refused to identify the schools that the AAC was interested in but stated that it would only entertain institutions that had expressed an interest in them.
He said, "We're trying not to poach, and we're certainly not trying to persuade." "There have been schools who have expressed interest in us. I don't want to cause instability within the system. ... We are just trying to regroup right now. We are aware that we must grow. This is just the reality of life, based on what has happened. I try not to get too excited.
Aresco stated that the AAC would look for members in all kinds of sports, not just football. However, this is also possible.
He said, "Ultimately, we want to become stronger than we were." "We believe there are schools that would be interested in helping us achieve this.
He said, "We would like schools that think alike, have the DNA of achievement, and have a cultural match, academic as well social, cultural," While geography is important to a certain extent, it doesn't matter as much anymore because travel is so much better.
Aresco has been a long-standing advocate for elevating the AAC into the same autonomous status as the Power 5 conferences. He has also pushed for his conference's designation as the "Power 6." On Friday, he reiterated that he would continue to work with the new members while also trying to change a system which makes it difficult for conferences move in and out of autonomous status.
He stated that he believes the Big 12 will have a stronger case since almost half of its members are non-power ranks if you add TCU and BYU. "The general feeling is that we are a P6 and that the system can't or won't accommodate us."
Renu Khator, Houston president, said that the NCAA's Board of Governors must make the decision again. This is the highest governing body of the NCAA.
Aresco stated that he hopes UCF and Cincinnati succeed in the Big 12 and that many people from these schools reached out to him -- including a "absolutely beautiful" message from Luke Fickell, Cincinnati coach.
Aresco stated, "You can't take it personally." It's hard to endure, and nobody's going to argue with the fact that you can't smile. But, on the other side, it's necessary to do so. It has a human element. These are all people who did a great job at the conference, were loyal members, and it is in their best interest to continue doing so. You have to be respectful of that and move on.
This report was contributed by Andrea Adelson, ESPN