This summer, the Big East name will officially belong to the Catholic 7 -- those non-football-playing schools that bolted the conference amid the recent upheaval and took the name with them. Which meant that in the interim, we'd all have to refer to the Big East as "the conference yet to be named." On Wednesday, that all changed when the announcement was made that the old Big East would become the new American Athletic Conference.
According to a press release, the AAC will be "across all platforms, associations and media at the conclusion of the 2012-13 sports seasons."
"We worked with our institutions, sports marketing experts, media partners, and also solicited opinions and reactions from collegiate sports fans to create a compelling list of names," Big East (and soon to be AAC) commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement emailed to the media. "Versions that included the word 'American' led every list. American Athletic Conference represents a strong, durable and aspirational name for our reinvented Conference.
"We engaged our fans through social media and focus groups in multiple cities, and we conducted extensive quantitative research," Aresco added. "We also received terrific input from our partners at ESPN and CBS Sports. Our name is a nod to tradition, but at the same time makes clear our determination to be a Conference with national impact and appeal. The American Athletic Conference will represent core American values of optimism, energy, growth and innovation. We have a broad geographical footprint that represents unity as well as diversity."
Judy Genshaft, President of the University of South Florida and Chair of the Executive Committee said "Our exciting new name is the result of a thorough process that has energized our Conference. The American Athletic Conference brand will embody the values of competition and sportsmanship that our student-athletes have always exemplified."
More praise from those with a vested interest in the conference's success:
"The American Athletic Conference is a brand that suggests a national scope and quality membership. It is an exciting time for the new conference and ESPN looks forward to our future together."
- Burke Magnus, Senior Vice President, College Sports Programming, ESPN
"We congratulate the American Athletic Conference on the selection of a terrific new name for college sports. We look forward to partnering with The American as they introduce their new brand and increase their presence as a conference going forward."
- Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports
For the 2014-15 academic year, the American Athletic Conference will include the University of Central Florida, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Connecticut, East Carolina University, the University of Houston, the University of Memphis, Southern Methodist University, the University of South Florida, Temple University, Tulane University and the University of Tulsa. The U.S. Naval Academy will become a football-only member in 2015. With 12 football schools in the fold by 2015, the AAC will host a football championship game.