George Washington & Memphis’ Quest for Power

Is the dream of Memphis joining a “Power” conference still alive?

Yes, but not in the form you probably imagine.

Also, it tangentially involves Revolutionary War hero and first POTUS George Washington.

More on him in a minute.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco has been making the rounds on the radio / podcast circuit, and he’s spitting some hard truth for anyone willing to listen:

“We are not the Big 10, and we’re not the SEC and we’re not going to be – and neither are some of the other conferences that are in the so called P5.”

Shots fired, Big XII & ACC.

We have to do things differently. We can’t compete with (the SEC & Big 10) head on. We can’t try to be on Saturday every week because the networks will take their games. What we had to do was build our brand differently and be innovative. We’ve done a ton of Thursdays and Fridays. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, but we get great exposure. We’re alone those nights, the college community is watching us. We had the 2 highest rated Thursday games this past year.”

The AAC has launched an aggressive campaign to achieve “Power” status, but if you depend on Memphis news sources you may have missed it.

Having worked at ESPN and at CBS Sports for 16 years, Aresco understands the financial realities facing AAC schools like Memphis:

“Even down the road we’re not going to have the resources of the Big 10 or the SEC or possibly some of the other conferences, we know that. But if we can get a lot more (money), we’ll be that much more competitive than we already are, and I think we will take our place among the P6 and find a way to officially get there.”

Aresco continues to push the narrative that the AAC belongs in the “Power 6” and he’s not backing down on this point.

For inspiration, Aresco turns to none other than the commander in chief of the Continental Army, George Washington himself.

What’s more American than that?

Aresco notes that Washington “couldn’t fight the British head on. Had he done that, the Revolution would have ended in a week or two. He had to fight on the fringes and eventually gain strength and do things differently.”

The commissioner understands the stakes:

“We have no choice. We are either going to be in that group (P5) or go backwards.”

This is undoubtedly true, and Aresco isn’t just talking about perception. He plans to eventually pursue legislation in the NCAA structure to become a member of the autonomy conferences (SEC, Big 10, ACC, Big XII, Pac 12).

To buttress his case, Aresco points to some impressive statistics. The AAC has had:

  • 32 football games with over a million viewers.
  • 19 wins against the P5 in the last 2 years.
  • More draft picks in first 5 rounds than the Big XII.

Ignored Locally

To codify and organize this “Power6” effort, the AAC released a strategic plan on May 1, 2017.

News of the plan’s release was covered by the Associated Press, Forbes, SportsBusiness Daily, and daily newspapers in other AAC Markets (Dallas, Tampa, Tulsa, etc…).

Memphis’ Commercial Appeal, on the other hand, didn’t cover the release of the strategic plan – and certainly hasn’t discussed or adopted usage of the term “Power 6.”

I reached out to someone at the Commercial Appeal to see if I had somehow missed their story on the strategic plan, and was told that they “didn’t think it was newsworthy.”

Ironically, just this week the CA ran a feature on the football program’s usage of athletic tape.

I guess newsworthiness is subjective.

Oh well, Aresco will surely soldier on….