UMass presumably has a crush on the American Athletic Conference. The bastard son of the Big East, the AAC appears to be the Minutemen's ideal landing spot for life after the MAC. The only problem: the AAC doesn't find UMass cute.
The AAC is set to lose two of its current eight teams—Louisville and Rutgers—this summer and seems like a logical fit for the Minutemen down the road. The Conference has a strong basketball pedigree, is more prominent on the national stage and should be able to offer more financial benefits than the MAC. But the AAC already has four future members lined up, which will put it at 12 come 2015, UMass' last season in the MAC.
According to a report from the Daily Hampshire Gazette's Matt Vautour, the league is happy with its future plans that don't include UMass. Vautour spoke to the AAC's commissioner, Mike Aresco, on the subject of the AAC's future expansion plans and how UMass fits in to them (hint, it doesn't).
"We have a lot of respect for UMass. It's a flagship university, a high quality northeast presence. UMass has a lot of things going for it," Aresco told Vautour, but added that "we don't have any plans to expand."
The AAC is adding Tulane, Tulsa, and East Carolina this offseason and Navy is joining as a football-only member after next season, giving the league an even 12 members in football, the current NCAA minimum to host a championship game.
"That's the configuration we expect the conference to have going forward," Aresco told Vautour. "Now you never rule out anything. We would always be, alert, in terms of expansion down the road. But I don't know there's going to be much realignment the next few years."
Aresco also told Vautour that building rivalries would be key for the Conference's growth and identity, which does offer UMass fans some hope. Two of the AAC's current members—Connecticut and Temple—have long-standing rivalries with UMass and are geographically close.
But for now, it appears that unless something major changes in the next two years, the Minutemen will play out their final seasons with the MAC and likely have to accept a football-only deal with Conference USA or the Sun Belt for awhile until the AAC comes calling. If it ever does.