The remnants of the scattering Big East Conference will officially have a new name next season.
According to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, the American Athletic Conference is the new name for the 10 schools that will compete in athletics together during the 2013-14 season and beyond:
McMurphy's tweet was later confirmed by the conference's official site, which released a statement regarding the new name:
The current Big East Conference has announced that it will be renamed the American Athletic Conference and will rebrand as such across all platforms, associations and media at the conclusion of the 2012-13 sports seasons.
According to the release, long and extensive research was completed in an effort to find the most marketable name possible. Commissioner Mike Aresco had this to say about the new conference label:
American Athletic Conference represents a strong, durable and aspirational name for our reinvented Conference...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.
The league flirted with the "America 12" name earlier in the process (via McMurphy) before deciding on an acronym that will be known as the AAC going forward.
Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati, Connecticut and South Florida are the five remaining teams from this year's collection of the Big East roster that will take the conference into the future. Southern Methodist, Memphis, Houston, Temple and Central Florida will complete the 2013 roster.
After that, Louisville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) will both be departing in 2014, leaving only eight teams in what conference leaders hope is finalized as a 12-team league starting in 2015 and beyond.
Tulane, Tulsa and East Carolina are all expected to fill the void starting in 2014, while Navy is expected to join in 2015 (via ESPN).
The name change ends a long and strange saga between the Big East and the Catholic 7.
Things took a turn for the worse when Syracuse and Louisville both had plans to escape from the Big East, intent on getting a better financial deal and more opportunities elsewhere. The Catholic 7 (Providence, Marquette, DePaul, Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova) reached an agreement (via McMurphy) to part ways with the Big East in March, and managed to take the Big East name along to the new basketball-first conference.
Boise State and San Diego State had expressed previous interest in joining the American Athletic Conference when it was still the Big East, but the turmoil during the split and ensuing name-change saga has led both to pursue other options.
While Cincinnati, South Florida and Connecticut are the only three members that figure to survive past the 2013-14 season, the incoming crop of schools look to benefit greatly from the move. ESPN and the Big East reached a new $130 million TV deal (via ESPN) that goes through the 2019-20 season, and should carry over even with the name change.
When one era ends, another begins. The Big East has moved on from its former vision to a new one—one that will be carried out as the American Athletic Conference.
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