The American Athletic Conference has an image problem, and going by what its commissioner and some of its coaches said Tuesday at the league's media day, conference officials know it.
The 10-member league is made up of six teams that used to be in the Big East (Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers, Temple and USF) and four teams that have moved from Conference USA (Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF). The league's champ has an automatic bid to the BCS this season, but when the four-team playoff comes into existence in 2014, the league will not be one of the "Power Five" conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC). And, given the makeup of the league, it shouldn't be grouped in the top tier.
That didn't stop those associated with the league from making their case Tuesday in Newport, R.I.
Commissioner Mike Aresco pointed out that the AAC has three teams that won 10 games last season (Cincinnati, Louisville and UCF) and that only the SEC had more teams with double-digit wins. He noted that league teams were 4-1 in bowls last season, and that five of the league's teams have been ranked in the BCS top 10 since 2006. But he also knows it's all about what happens this season and in the next few years.
"We will have a good chance to show our mettle," he said. "Our teams have very good strength of schedule, and that's going to be an important component in the new college football playoff structure. ... We've already scheduled numerous non-conference games through 2020 against what are termed the 'power five' conferences. And we want to make that the 'power six' conferences."
Aresco was asked if AAC teams had to win some high-profile non-conference games.
"It's important we do well," he said. "It's not vital that we beat this team or that team. But it's important that we do well. ... We will be very competitive. We think we will exceed expectations.
"... Clearly, we're a conference that wants to compete. We want to play the best. If our teams are successful playing such non-conference schedules, in addition to our very tough conference slate, we will be in a position to challenge for a spot in the national playoff. ... Our only limitation will be our own performance. The opportunity is clearly there."
UCF coach George O'Leary disagreed with his commissioner a bit.
"You've got to get your share of wins there (non-conference games) if you're going to take notice," O'Leary said. "That's how I look at it. ... This is my third conference I've been in (at UCF). And I believe that's what you need to do because that's how other schools are looking at you -- not within your conference but outside the conference, how you do."
New Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville, who has been a head coach in the SEC and Big 12, said one advantage that the ACC has is that many of its schools are in big cities -- and, thus, big media markets.
"The one thing that we had in those leagues is we had tradition in some of those teams and we had followings," he said. "We didn't have the metro cities that we do today in this league. We have a great opportunity to sell our product to a lot more people than most of the conferences combined.
"Just look at the cities that we're in, the opportunity for television, for media. ... There are some good football teams in this conference. There's some teams that will make a difference in college football. And we'll only do it, though, no matter how good we are, if we're followed by media and television. And so we're going to do our part as coaches and players. We're going to put a great product out there. If we get help from the media and from television, then we will be sold like the rest of the conferences."