AAC misled, not on par with Alabama, Ohio St.

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The powers that be in college football seem to be on the verge of a compromise that will move their playoffs from four teams to 12, starting in 2024.

The plan starts with six automatic bids. One for each of the so-called Power Five conferences – ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC – and one for the highest ranked champion of the remaining five conferences, the so-called Group of Five. In addition, there would be six major bids.

The top four seeds would get the first round of byes. Seeds 5-8 would host 9-12 on their respective campuses, with the winners advancing. The playoffs would create more access, more excitement, more interest in more regular season games and of course a lot more money.

It is a long, long-awaited enlargement, and one would think, if nothing else, that the commissioners of the Group of Five conferences would run to sign this agreement.

After all, during the current four-team playoffs, let alone the BCS that preceded, none of their leagues have ever had a great chance of qualifying. This would be a huge opportunity that annually gives an upstart outside the traditional power axis a chance.

Well, when it comes to college football, there must always be someone who lets philosophy or ego or hubris – or yes, who the hell knows what? – to get in the way, even if it is self-destructive.

Enter Mike Aresco, commissioner of the American Athletic Conference, who told the AP on Friday that he would “strongly” oppose the expansion plan.

It’s not because it would not improve the potential access for his league. It would. It’s not because it would not generate more money for his schools. It would. No, Aresco is sorry that it puts auto bids aside for the five major conferences, no matter how good their masters are. He calls it “privilege.”

“I do not want to see a system that will reward privileges for the sake of privilege,” Aresco told the AP.

Aresco preferred a plan released last summer that would provide automatic bids for the “six highest-ranked conference champions.”

It was truly a better and more gracious plan, but it was also an honor without the big difference.

Almost every single year, if not every single year, the champions of Power Five would win places among the six automatic bids. So, really, who cares? If somehow there are two deserving teams from the group of five, one would get an automatic bid and one could still get an at-large. But guess what? That is highly unlikely.

Either way, this is a seismic opportunity for group of five schools, and one that the big programs do not have to supply. They can just stay on four teams and continue to control everything.

That reality does not seem to matter to Aresco. He threatens to take a worse deal for his league because he does not like that his league is not considered a Power Five.

“This branding is very harmful to us,” Aresco said. “It’s like we’re playing in a different division.”

This is either a (miserable) negotiation tactic or just about the most ridiculous reason to oppose an endgame in the long history with ridiculous reasons to oppose expansion of the playoffs.

See, AAC is losing three of its best programs (Cincinnati, Houston and UCF) to the Big 12, and Aresco is clearly still upset. Next season, his league will no longer be close to Power Five status, and most years it will not even be the best of the rest – Mountain West (Boise State, Fresno State and San Diego State) is probably better, year in, years in.

At this point, the AAC has little to rely on. If the rest of college football said, “Okay, you’re against the plan, then go true. We’ll continue without AAC,” almost no fans or TV executives would care or even notice.

If you are one of the remaining AAC programs with potential for a big season (Memphis and SMU), you should call Aresco and ask him what he is doing. Labels and ideology are a crazy hill to die on.

There is a department of college football. Maybe it’s not fair, maybe it’s not right, but it’s definitely not going anywhere. Tulane is not LSU. Tulsa is not Oklahoma. I’m sorry to tell you.

This does not mean that good teams can not come from untraditional or less funded places. Now here’s the chance to prove it on the pitch and change that view … but AAC is against?

A 12-team playoff is a good deal for everyone, but especially anyone not named Alabama or Ohio State or Clemson who tends to swallow all the spots in the four-team field. The automatic bidding makes conference running – and conference title games – important. It is spreading interest across the country and deep into the season in ways that the current system does not. It allows where there was not one.

It is better. It’s better for college football – whole college football. Perfect? No, but it certainly represents enormous progress.

Mike Aresco’s ridiculousness should not stand in the way.