Under the leadership of commissioner Mike Aresco, the American Athletic Conference has written an impressive list of accomplishments, both in the competitive arena and the classroom. The American has taken its place at the forefront of intercollegiate athletics, with a collection of national team and individual championships and football and men's and women's basketball postseason victories that place The American among the elite Division I FBS conferences.
The league has produced four NCAA championship teams - UConn men's basketball in 2014 and UConn women's basketball in 2014, 2015 and 2016 - in addition to two New Year's Six bowl champions, five NCAA individual championships, and one Rhodes Scholar. Additionally, American Athletic Conference teams have advanced to the College World Series, reached the semifinal and final rounds of the NIT, qualified for the match play round of the NCAA Men's Golf Championship and registered top-10 finishes at the NCAA Cross Country and Outdoor Track and Field championships.
The American Athletic Conference was one of six finalists for the 2016 Sports Business Journal Sports League of the Year award, along with Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, NASCAR, the National Basketball Association and the PGA Tour.
In football, Temple and Navy were ranked in the final College Football Playoff poll of the 2016 season, marking the second straight season that The American finished with at least two ranked teams. Seven teams from The American played in bowl games, while three teams (USF, Temple, Tulsa) finished with at least 10 wins.
The American has had a combined 15 teams play in bowl games in the last two seasons, highlighted by Houston's win against Florida State in the 2015-16 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Houston's finish at No. 8 nationally in 2015 gave The American a top-10 team in the final national polls for the second time in three seasons after UCF finished No. 10 in the 2013 rankings after the Knights' Fiesta Bowl win against Baylor. Additionally, Memphis, Navy, USF and Temple have all finished in the top 25 of either the CFP, Associated Press or USA Today polls as members of The American.
Individual teams in The American have enjoyed unprecedented success since the conference's formation. Houston went 13-1 in the 2015 football season, setting a school record for wins, while Navy won a program-record 11 games in its first season in the conference, also in 2015. The 2014 season saw Memphis finish with 10 wins in football for the first time since 1938, while Temple enjoyed its first 10-win season in 2015.
Beyond the gridiron, The American sent four teams to the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, and the league had the best men's basketball postseason record of any conference in 2014. Since the conference's formation in 2013-14, teams from The American have registered top-10 national rankings in football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball, men's soccer, men's golf, and men's track and field. Student-athletes from The American won three NCAA individual titles in track and field in 2016-17 as Cincinnati's Annette Echikunwoke won the indoor weight throw, Tulsa's Marc Scott won the outdoor 10,000-meter title, and Houston won the crown in the outdoor 4x100-meter relay.
Under The American's banner, SMU advanced to the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship for the first time since 1993. The UConn women's basketball team won its NCAA-record ninth, 10th and 11th national championships and broke its own NCAA record with a 111-game winning streak that spanned three seasons. UCF, East Carolina and Houston have all achieved top-10 rankings in baseball in the past three years. Tulsa placed sixth at the 2016 NCAA Men's Cross Country Championship, while USF finished the 2014-15 season at No. 8 in the final men's golf national ranking.
American Athletic Conference student-athletes have distinguished themselves in all facets of intercollegiate athletics. Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich won the Bednarik Award and the Nagurski Trophy as the nation's top defensive player in 2015, while Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting. UConn basketball standout Breanna Stewart finished her career as the most decorated player in college basketball history as she was chosen as the consensus national player of the year for the third time and became the first player be named four times as the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four. Reynolds and Stewart were selected as the winners of the 2016 AAU James E. Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athletes, marking only the second time in the 86-year history of the award that multiple winners were chosen.
Additionally, SMU's Avery Acker was chosen as the Division I women's volleyball Academic All-America of the Year in 2015, while Navy offensive guard E.K. Binns and East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones have both been named as finalists for the 2016 Campbell Trophy, which is presented by the National Football Foundation to the top scholar-athlete in college football. Tulsa cross country standout Kirk Smith was chosen as a Rhodes Scholar in the fall of 2016, while two student-athletes from The American earned NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships in the conference's first three years.
American Athletic Conference alumni have made their mark in professional sports as well. UCF quarterback Blake Bortles was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the No. 3 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. More recently, a number of American Athletic Conference athletes have been selected in the first round of the professional entry drafts in football, basketball, baseball and soccer. The American has had two first-round picks in football in each of three of the last four seasons, while the conference produced four first-round picks, including the top three selections, in the 2016 WNBA Draft.
The American Athletic Conference holds media rights partnerships with ESPN and CBS Sports which provide the conference with outstanding national exposure on the two industry leaders in sports television. The football portion of the contract calls for nearly 90 percent of conference-controlled games on national broadcast or national cable platforms. The first two American Athletic Conference Football Championships were televised by ABC as part of Championship Saturday.
In men's basketball, the television deal calls for all conference-controlled games to be televised, with more than 63 percent slotted for national broadcast or national cable - a minimum of 107 games. The entire postseason tournament is televised, including the championship game, which is on ABC or ESPN. Sixty percent of the American's women's basketball games are carried on national cable, regional sports networks or ESPN3, while the conference has a multi-year agreement with CBS Sports Network for coverage of select baseball games.
American Athletic Conference teams have access to the pinnacle of college football's postseason structure. An American representative would be chosen for the College Football Playoff semifinals if it is among the top four teams in the CFP selection committee's final ranking. Otherwise, the league would place its champion in a New Year's Bowl if it is ranked higher than the champions of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference and the Sun Belt Conference.
Additionally, The American holds primary or secondary partnerships with 12 bowls for the current six-year cycle, ensuring multiple annual matchups against the nation's top conferences and providing desirable postseason destinations to member institutions and their fans.
The American Athletic Conference serves its membership from a state-of-the-art office located in Providence, R.I. The location of the conference headquarters - just steps from the city's Amtrak station and 10 minutes from T.F. Green International Airport - gives the conference easy access to its member schools. The conference headquarters also serves as the home of the American Digital Network, which provides live coverage of all 21 conference championships.