The AAC Commissioner is right – It’s time to let go of the “Power 5” label.

Mike Aresco had had enough. The commissioner of the American Athletic Conference released a lengthy statement on March 9 explaining why the “Power 5” label no longer works. He has a degree.

For nearly 10 years, the AAC struggled to adapt. down markers on the football sidelines. The conference had success in both football and basketball, but when the College Football Playoff began, they were on the outside looking in. Even when Cincinnati finally reached the 2021 CFP semifinals, ESPN and others called them a “non-P5” team. It stung.

Aresco called a cane with the name. In his statement:

It is troubling to see labels manufactured by the media, endorsed by college sports leadership, that do not reflect the reality of college sports in the future. This creates a gap in five that should not exist and creates harmful effects. Documents have recently come to light outlining a P5 legislative initiative around NIL that has not been shared with the wider membership. This is not a healthy approach, as such an initiative should be a collaborative effort among the broader members of Division I, including all FBS conferences. These five conferences do not speak for all college sports. The Power Five and Group of Five labels should be discarded and confined to collective history. There are 10 FBS conferences, some more successful than others, but all share similar goals, face similar challenges, and compete successfully with each other.

With the final touches being put into a 12-team playoff, the financial future looks brighter for the newly expanded 2023 edition of the AAC. Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA are coming on board and will make up for the losses of Houston, Cincinnati and the University of Central Florida moving to the Big 12. It will come with a hefty penalty – reported by The Athletic that each university should reimburse the AAC $18 million over the next 14 years for leaving a year early.

Aresco spoke in more detail at the AAC men’s basketball tournament on Saturday. “The gap between the No. 2 conference, whether it’s the Big Ten or the SEC, and the No. 3 is a lot bigger now than it is between the No. 3 conference and the American. Taking a look at some of the conference revenue, it’s not that far off.

Selected Conference Revenue Comparison (2021)

The gap between the SEC, the Big Ten and everyone else is widening. However, there are some unique differences in conference revenue streams with the four remaining conferences. When you look at postseason revenue, the gap between the Big Ten and the ACC is $289.59 million. the gap between ACC and AAC is $242.77 million.

Therein lies the problem. The AAC had postseason success in football. But some of it has to do with bowl game payouts. “If the gap is so big, why does the American have four football wins in the New Year over the top teams and dozens of regular season football wins against the so-called P5,” according to Aresco’s statement.

The point is clearly to get into the CFP semifinals. In that regard, the AAC can thank Cincinnati for having a successful year in 2021. Those who follow football closely know that viewership drives decisions about who gets to the “Final Four” and who gets left behind. It didn’t hurt that Cincinnati faced Alabama in that matchup.

Aresco believes the 12-team CFP evens the playing field for his conference for the first time in the “Autonomy 5” era, even if that’s exactly how the media and others are describing it. Noting his irritation that the conference was left out of a NIL conversation held with other commissioners, he argued that Federal NIL lobbying and legislation affects all of Division I, not just a select few.

The reality is that football revenue just means more. As Florida State athletics director Michael Alford told his trustees recently, it’s worth about 80 percent of the equation for determining a conference’s media revenue. While the AAC will likely gain some ground if they have more than one win and advance to the group stage, so will the others.

It’s time to let go of the “Power 5” label – it’s no longer accurate. In terms of revenue, it’s definitely “The Big Two”. The question is – what do you call everyone else?

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