The American Athletic Conference officially launched on July 1. What happens in the coming months and years will determine just how successful the AAC will be. Commissioner Mike Aresco has been the conference's biggest proponent but he also understands that winning is key.
The AAC has just signed a six-year television deal, and it will receive money from the Big East as part of the Catholic 7 deal that should hold the new conference over for the time being. But at the end of the day -- and this is something Aresco has been saying from the get-go -- the AAC will only be as successful as its members.
"In fairness, we must perform," he said recently. "We want to make sure we play in the highest level so we have an equal opportunity."
To that end, the AAC would love to make an impression as a BCS-eligible conference, something that will change after the season when the BCS is replaced by a four-team playoff in 2014.
“Our conference features legitimate football national championship contenders,” Aresco said via the Associated Press. “Our BCS representative this year will be a strong team. And I would remind people we remain a BCS conference this fall.”
Looking ahead, Aresco has talked about the AAC being "above the line" in the Division 4 talk, which would create divisions among FBS schools, possibly further separating the haves from the have nots.
“I did talk to some commissioners -- I won't name them -- one said to me, ‘We think you could well be above the line,' Aresco told CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd. “When you hear talk like that, you know that this is potentially very real. ...
"We don't want the perception to be that we haven't played at the highest level of college athletics," Aresco told Dodd. "That's why there was some talk about us having our own playoff. I dismiss that because we don't want to go that route at all. Why would we put ourselves in a kind of subdivision?"
Just the latest example that the road ahead won't be an easy one for Aresco and the AAC. For now, though, the conference can go out, win football games, and show well in a BCS Bowl game in January. That's the only thing currently in their control.