A decision regarding sites for the American Athletic Conference men's and women's basketball championships next season could be announced within the next week or two, commissioner Mike Aresco said Thursday.
In a conference call with reporters, Aresco said a "handful" of candidates remain but he would not name any of the buildings still in the mix. Reports from last week's conference meetings in Ponte Vedra, Fla., said The American is focusing on Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville for the women and the FedExForum in Memphis for the men. The XL Center in Hartford is interested and Philadelphia, among others, has also been mentioned as a possible site for the men's tournament.
"We're getting much closer," Aresco said Thursday. "We're narrowing it down to our final choices, both men's and women's. . . . We're going to be in sites that make sense for us, in terms of attendance, the quality of the venue, the financial deal for the conference. We're likely to do one-year deals and examine things as the year goes by."
The American unveiled its new logo Thursday and the breakup with the Catholic schools playing basketball will become official on July 1. The group of Catholic schools will retain the Big East name.
Aresco said that with 10 members (Connecticut, Cincinnati, USF, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, SMU, Temple and UCF) in the inaugural season of the conference, the men's tournament will be held in a Wednesday-Saturday format with the entire tournament televised by ESPN. The championship game will continue to be held on the Saturday night before Selection Sunday, although negotiations continue concerning tipoff time.
As expected, the American will retain its automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
"We're a core conference," Aresco said. "We never lost our automatic qualifier for the NCAA basketball tournament. In the eyes of the NCAA, all we're really doing is changing our name."
Louisville heads to the ACC and Rutgers moves to the Big Ten after the upcoming season, while East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa join in 2014. Navy joins in football in 2015 to bring the league total to 12. Aresco said he feels good about keeping the current and future membership together, adding there are no active expansion plans.
"No one can predict where conference alignment may go down the road, but it does appear there is a period of stability now," Aresco said.
Regarding football, Aresco said he would like to have the league's bowl lineup finalized in the next month. The conference has six bowl tie-ins and Aresco said he does expect changes but he would not rule out six to nine tie-ins when the process is complete. He also said The American is "pretty far along with a plan" of starting its own bowl, "something that might spark a trend."
Aresco declined comment on the current controversial situation at Rutgers. The commissioner referred to what he termed as "tension in old structure" of the Big East, especially with schools that only played basketball. He said The American members are "loyal and resilient" and he was especially pleased that revenue distribution discussions went "smoothly" at the league meetings.
"It's a great group I'm dealing with, it really is," Aresco said. "We have an alignment of interests. We have accomplished a lot since December. . . . We've got people pulling together and working together. We know we have a future. It's up to us to perform."