The American Athletic Conference is determined to end the talk of a Power 5 and make it a Power 6 with the release of their new strategic plan.
The plan's release comes just days after the AAC finished with more players drafted in the NFL than the Big 12 Conference. The timing could not be better as AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco proclaimed the American a Power 6 conference.
“Our aim as a Power 6 conference is to pursue academic and athletic excellence at every level and within the context of our core values. Our mission statement and series of goals and strategies reflect the collective spirit of our schools as our student-athletes seek to distinguish themselves in their academic, athletic and personal pursuits. Our schools also seek to engage effectively with their communities and with their peers in the intercollegiate community.”
The plan is broken down into "five pillars" that the conference will use to build their brand. Since it is unlikely you are going to read the 24 page release, we will highlight the main points each of pillar.
Student Health, Safety and Well-Being
This has been widely discussed in recent years as numerous scandals have ravished universities throughout the country. The mistakes that have been made at Penn State, Baylor and several other universities have put every institution on notice in regards to student safety. It's important to establish that every student, athlete or not, is safe while on campus.
The American pledges to use the best technology available to help its student-athletes with medical issues such as nutrition and the controversial concussion protocol, as well as on-the-field practices in the event of an emergency.
We often forget that the majority of the athletes in the conference will not play at the professional level. The conference boasts schools that finished in the top 100 of the U.S. News and World Report rankings. They hope to work with university faculty, athletic directors and coaches to make sure students have the required time for both school and sports. Their education is key to their future and the conference is aiming for 90 percent graduation rate for student-athletes.
If you are reading this, it is because you care about the athletic plan moving forward. The conference highlights their athletic achievements in each sport to date, including the Connecticut Huskies women's basketball run, bowl wins over Power 5 opponents, Navy's inclusion in football and the success of Olympic sport athletes.
Their future plans include efforts to increase attendance in all sports, higher television viewership, hosting regional and national events, tougher out-of-conference schedules and most importantly, teams that will contend for the College Football Playoff and NCAA Championships. The plan includes some lofty goals for each sport as the conference hopes to compete with the rest of the power conferences.
Branding, Marketing, Communications and Public Relations
The plan names Wasserman Media Group as a consultant in the branding and marketing strategies. Some of the key points are using football and basketball to promote the rest of the student-athletes, increased local and national marketing,
Social media has become a major part of the promotion of universities and their athletic programs. The Temple Owls made national headlines when they hired the first S.W.A.G. Coordinator. While the position is one many collegiate programs use, the Owls' title created a buzz. And of course, no social media campaign is complete without a hashtag. The conference is using #AMERICANPOW6R to promote their plan.
A piece that stuck out: exploring the possibility of moving the conference office elsewhere. The AAC is currently based in Providence, Rhode Island, the same place where the previous football-based Big East conference would be based. Could a move to a major city enhance their profile? It seems as though it could be something on the table.
The growth of any conference - or business for that matter - is having the funds to make the first four pillars possible. The AAC is banking on its nationally televised Thursday and Friday football games to market themselves and pursue corporate partnerships. It lays out how the conference will draw in more fans by enhancing its venues, in addition to merchandising and ticket sales.
It does note that they need to find new “distribution partners for the dissemination of the American Digital Network content and other multimedia assets.” As more consumers pull the plug, online streaming options have become increasingly popular.
It remains to be seen if they can actually come through with their high expectations. The AAC does have universities that can compete with the rest of the Power 5. Houston, Navy, Temple, USF and UCF are all football programs on the rise. The addition of Wichita State gives AAC baseball and basketball another quality member.
But there will always be doubts about the conference. Take into account that UConn is rumored to want out of the conference, the constant rumblings of P5 conferences snatching up AAC schools and not every university being committed to use athletics as their goal to succeed, the future will always be in question.
As it stands, none of the information released was all that new. We’ve known for some time about the Power 6 initiative and how the AAC wants to separate itself from their G5 peers.
Some will mock the AAC’s ambitious goals to break into college football’s elite but you can’t knock the AAC’s hustle. Although it’s dubious whether the initiative will actually work, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on in the college football world.