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Media Days Come To Rhode Island

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

 

Although much of the New England sports landscape is buzzing about the Patriots' return to the field, around the country others are preparing for the return of college football. As teams prepare to take the field for the start of their summer training camps they must first partake in their conference's Media Days.

The American Athletic Conference's Media Day took place in the Ocean State, more specifically in scenic Newport. The American Athletic Conference is comprised of 11 teams: Cincinnati, Central Florida (UCF), Houston, East Carolina, Southern Methodist (SMU), South Florida (USF), Memphis, Temple, Connecticut (UConn), Tulane and Tulsa. All of these teams ascended upon Goat Island in Newport to take in the scenery, local food and most importantly - talk football.

"It's a great experience to be up here," Houston head coach Tony Levine said. "I don't know how many of them have ever been up to Newport, Rhode Island before. "It's a great venue. They do a great job hosting this event." The venue was ideal. From the picturesque skyline to the perfect weather for teams from near and far to enjoy, Rhode Island's beauty was on full display.

Newport was not the only star on display, however. The talent within The American was there for the nation to see. From coaches such as George O'Leary (UCF) to Tommy Tuberville (Cincinnati) or players such as Shane Carden (ECU) or Byron Jones (UConn), the level of talent in the building was evident.

The conference has even gained notoriety on a national scale, landing five players on the Maxwell Award watch list for national Player of the Year and four on the Bednarik Award watch list for the national Defensive Player of the Year.

Maxwell Award (Player of the Year)

  • Shane Carden, QB, East Carolina
  • Deontay Greenberry, WR, Houston
  • Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina
  • John O'Korn, QB, Houston
  • P.J. Walker, QB, Temple

Bednarik Award (Defensive Player of the Year)

  • Lorenzo Doss, CB, Tulane
  • Martin Ifedi, DE, Memphis
  • Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple
  • Terrance Plummer, LB, UCF

With this talent and national recognition following UCF's Fiesta Bowl win in 2013, the topic of "power conferences" and the future of the landscape of the NCAA. Although The American is not considered one of these conferences on a national level, AAC commissioner Mike Aresco believes differently. 

"We all hear a lot about Power 5 conferences, the Equity 5, the High Resource 5, the Group of 5, the Autonomy 5, whatever you choose to call them, and we consider ourselves a power conference as well," Aresco said. "We're not going to take a backseat to anyone. We see the landscape as five plus one and we're knocking on the door. Our goal is to be in the conversation as the sixth power conference. I believe by virtue of our performance that we already are.

"We hear that the new NCAA governance system which allows autonomy in limited areas to the Equity 5 Conferences will cause us somehow to be left behind, that resources of those conferences are simply too great. That we will not be able to keep up and compete," Aresco continued. 

"I don't buy that for a minute and what we did this year proves it. When our schools won the Fiesta Bowl and the national basketball titles, reporters asked about our conference status and my response was, Look at those student‑athletes on the podium. Tell those kids they are not power teams in a power conference. They just won the national championship. They just won a BCS bowl game. This is America. We believe in upward mobility. This success will translate into greater success. "

This talk led into a discussion about the new College Football Playoff system with College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock. Hancock disclosed information on how teams will be ranked, how voting will take place and the plan for a rotating schedule of back-to-back triple headers on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day each year for major bowl games and the semifinal games.

With the media days ended, and football right around the corner, Rhode Island proved that it does not need a major college football team to have a huge impact on college football.  

 

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