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By Erica Brancato
On May 8, 2014

  • The UConn men’s and women’s basketball teams celebrated winning dual National Championships. Their victories topped off a fantastic start for the new American Athletic Conference. With these victories and a strong football performance by Central Florida, the AAC impressed other conferences. JESS CONDON & JON KULAKOFSKY/The Daily Campus

The American Athletic Conference had a pretty good debut season. After the Big East fell apart last year, the American Athletic Conference picked up the pieces from the shattered Big East and nervously (and unwillingly) formed a new conference.
With two basketball national titles under its belt and a BCS Bowl Game victory (thanks to Central Florida), the American Athletic Conference showed its potential in the first year.
"We had to gain respect the old fashioned way," AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco said. "We had to earn it. I think we did."
Although the American Athletic Conference proved some naysayers wrong, the new conference isn't out of the woods just yet. As of next year Louisville and Rutgers will leave the conference for the ACC and the Big Ten. Replacing the Cardinals and the Scarlet Knights will be East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa. Louisville is a huge loss to this conference; to bring in weak new schools doesn't help the new conference stand out as much. It loses its appeal.
So what do we need to keep this conference afloat? We need to keep winning. This conference is basically getting shafted because it doesn't have enough history or impact to its name. It also doesn't help that the NCAA will potentially give more power to the big conferences and football schools, but that's another issue at hand. The only thing that will get this conference noticed is if it keeps winning.
That being said, UConn, Memphis and Cincinnati need to step up and lead in all aspects of athletics. These three schools have more dominant programs in the conference, which is why they need to lead in order to make the American better. Also, the other schools need to get better as well; they need to be reliable and strong in order for the conference to be considered "tough."
Although all of these tasks for the American Athletic Conference are attainable, the success all starts with one sport: football. Football is the dominant sport behind all powerhouse conferences, however football is the main sport that the American is weak in. Louisville was a huge loss for this conference, as it left lackluster teams at best. Without Louisville, Central Florida is the only dominant team in the American. With a 52-42 win over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl , UCF is going to be a dominant force in conference play. The newly added East Carolina, who went 10-3 last season, will be an added relief to Florida's hefty task in leading the conference.
Despite Central Florida and East Carolina, the majority of the football teams in this conference simply need to get better overall. Temple, UConn and South Florida won a combined seven games out of 30 last season, which is awful. It also doesn't help that the conference is bringing in Tulsa who went 3-9 last year either.
The American Athletic Conference proved its ability in the inaugural year, however with dominate conferences like the Big Ten and the SEC, it is easy for the American to be unknown. Despite the misfortunes with the Big East, these teams have to prove that they can play in the big leagues. They need to prove that it wasn't just a lucky year; the conference needs to keep consistently improving in order to be respected. It is a huge challenge, but as we have seen before, if any conference can prove the others wrong it's the American.

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