The American Athletic Conference announced today the divisions for the 2015 Football season, which will also feature the conference's first ever championship game! The conference leaders opted for geographic alignment over the completely arbitrary alignment strategy made popular by the Big Ten.
The AAC-East will have UConn, Temple, Cincinnati, UCF, USF and East Carolina. The West will consist of Houston, Tulsa, Tulane, SMU, Memphis and Navy. Located in Annapolis, Maryland, putting Navy in the West might seem like a questionable decision except that allegedly they requested to be in the West- probably for recruiting reasons. Our friends at Down the Drive have astutely pointed out that Navy does pretty heavy crootin' down in Texas so good for them.
If you sense a little imbalance in the quality of the two divisions, you aren't alone. Cincinnati, UCF and ECU are probably the three best teams in the American right now and the West really only has up-and-coming Houston and SMU to pin their hopes on. This is good news for UConn though as we need our schedule to be as competitive as possible to grow the program. I'm not interested in easy divisional wins and AAC championship game appearances.
The regular season format will consist of eight games. One against every other team in the division and three against teams from the other division- making sure that each school will play home and away games against every member of the conference in a four-year cycle. The Championship game will be played at the home stadium of the best division winner.
It should come as good news that UConn will have the opportunity to face UCF, East Carolina and Cincinnati every year. The worst thing that could have happened would be further dilution of our football schedule with say, having Cinci in the West and Navy with us in the East. Or UCF ending up in the West and the suits dropping Memphis in the East for the sake of balance. As it stands, the three teams from the West that we would play every year are basically interchangeable.
We have some idea of where Bob Diaco will recruit and what pockets he will try to penetrate, but regular trips to Philadelphia, North Carolina, Cincinnati and Florida will offer opportunities to get the UConn brand out in front of some very good recruits. Hopefully this is something we can take advantage of because for UConn Football to be successful our recruiting needs to pick up. Quickly.
To summarize: conference schedule to be as competitive as it could be, thumbs up. Recruiting has an opportunity to get better, tentative thumbs up.