Mike Aresco: The AAC’s Don Quixote

A rare color photo of Temple Stadium, a place that existed from 1928-2004. Have to wonder where Temple would be now if the campus was moved to the border of Cheltenham and Philadelphia, as was the original thought when the stadium was built. Temple could have upgraded it and 12,500 students living there could have made it a real home-field advantage.

Like him or not, you cannot accuse American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco of being lackadaisical.

As recently as two weeks ago, Aresco penned an open letter complaining about how the league has been treated by “the media” in not getting a Power 5 designation.

It is a familiar theme for Aresco and unfortunately will fall on deaf ears.

The problem is, like Don Quixote, the hero in a satirical novel by Cervantes, Aresco is tilting at windmills. To some, Quixote represents the idea of a person pursuing a goal that might be foolish or unattainable in the eyes of others but the quest matters to them.

That’s pretty much where the AAC is today.

Temple made several institutional missteps along the way to find itself in limbo with the other top G5 schools when it had a chance to be promoted. Maybe it goes all the way back to 1928. When I asked the late Doc Chodoff more than a decade ago why Temple built a field on Cheltenham Ave. instead of the main campus, he said the plan back then was to move the campus there so that’s where it made the most sense to get ahead of the game and build a campus around a stadium. Back in the 30s, the seating capacity was 40,000 and already having a stadium the university could have easily made upgrades. In the 1950s, the capacity was downgraded to 20,017.

Moving from largely a commuter school to 12,500 students living on campus, a stadium already existing in that environment could have probably been enough to position Temple for inclusion into the Power 5. Keeping Bruce Arians as head coach probably would have also helped move the ball forward. Instead, the school fumbled with bad coaching hires that started with Jerry Berndt and hopefully ended with Rod Carey.

Charles G. Erny (hat) and two others take a look at the “brand new” Temple Stadium in 1928. Erny contributed $350,000 to build the stadium and the Temple baseball team played on the adjacent Erny Field for decades. Perhaps Erny is pointing to North Philly and telling the men that’s where the school will house its students temporarily. (Photos courtesy Temple Libraries)

Water under the bridge for Temple now and so to it is for the AAC.

The “media” isn’t responsible for the Power 5 designation but the NCAA is for allowing the five largest conferences to hijack whatever governing it had over not only football but for the two major sports. The NCAA probably feels it has no other choice but to cede power to those leagues because it might fear they will break away to form their own organization.

Maybe they should let them go because a lot of the good that the NCAA provided was a tight reign on institutions that play fast and loose with the rules in order to get ahead.

Now it’s the Wild Wild West and there is no James West or Artemas Gordon to police the bad guys.

The bad guys certainly are not the media who just report on the reality of the situation.

The reality is that the “bad guys” are in control and no number of good guys or good arguments by the good guys seem to matter.

The system in place now rewards the “haves” with more riches and subjugated the “have-nots” with even less than they already had. The G5 didn’t start out to be a farm system for the P5 but with the NIL and the transfer portal, that’s what it has become.

The victim has been fairness and an eroding of confidence by fans of G5 schools that their teams can ever get a shot at upward mobility.

Nobody on the governmental level seems to be in a hurry to restore it. All Aresco can do in 2023 is, like Quixote in 1605, tilt at windmills.

Monday: The New Arrivals


7 thoughts on “Mike Aresco: The AAC’s Don Quixote

  1. You are 100% on the money here Mike. I guess you say the real metamorphosis in college football began some fifty years ago when the NCAA established the three division format in 1973? Things were so different before that. For example, Princeton lays claim to no less than 28 national football championships, the last one being in 1950. Dick Kazmaier won the Heisman in 1951. The way it once was. Princeton and others, including Temple, would deemphasize their football programs come the mid 1950s. Those of us who are diehard Owl fans at this point can only dream about completing for a national championship. And of course that goes for the other G5 have nots. But after those two unforgettable 2015 and 2016 seasons, many of us thought we had finally “turned the corner”. Who could have ever imagined the current state of things just seven or eight years later. But. as always, Go Owls!

  2. How many of us still love the compelling drama of college football even though we graduated from Temple?

    Our BOT lacks ambition, wisdom, and foresight.., all without any accountability. The BOT fired the last two Uni Presidents but who can fire the BOT? They need a reboot, every member.

    Yet, our collective passion for college football persists, thanks in a large part to this blog, Go Mike.

    Johnson and Drayton are good men who have made the best decisions possible in an horrid environment. TUFB will win, go to a bowl, and Johnson and Drayton will leave…, they don’t share the same attributes of their employer.

    We’ll start this sh&t all over when they leave. My prediction is Drayton will leave after the 2024 season, if not sooner.

    • I offer wonder how Al Golden and Matt Rhule would have done at Temple in this environment where their best defensive lineman go to Miami (Roche) and Wisconsin (Varner). Horrid environment indeed. Matt and Al had advantages no future Temple coach will have. To me, its unsustainable that one or two players per team can make millions and most of their teammates make only a couple thousand.

  3. When the time is right those P5 conferences (or some of them) will break away from the NCAA even tho the NCAA is doing everything it can to help them out from a money standpoint – it’s all about the $. They already have their own TV contracts and are enlarging in spite of any so-called regulations. If Temple wants to continue with football and do its usual half-assed methodology then all we can really hope for is to win more games in the AAC and go bowling most seasons – oh hell, I’ll be watching them no matter what, as usual…..

    • Yep, most of us hang in there no matter what! I will always look forward to pregame tailgates in K-Lot at the Linc. The team “fly in” with the TU DMB. Then on to the game to root for our Owls! Actually, I like the newly restructured AAC with the incoming teams. Yeah the Owls in the ACC would be nice. And it could happen down the road should we get back to winning most games and experience a pleasantly growing fan base. Would be nice to regain national respect and recognition such as it was in 2015/16.

      • As I said with Temple’s “usual half-assed methodology” we’ll never be ready for and successful in the ACC, at least not sustainably, unless we want to be perpetual bottom dwellers. I can live with the AAC membership as it is. And remember we rarely do very well even in the “non-revenue” sports; and every other school, the new ones included, have baseball, men’s track&field, women’s softball, and other sports Temple dropped. It really irks me to go to ESPN+ and see all the other schools listed in the AAC with games in baseball, softball, men’s lacrosse, etc. but no Temple listed – it’s really pretty pitiful. So what can we expect in football and basketball? Mediocrity at best especially in the college sports world we now have. Maybe just maybe McKie did about as well as Temple can do anymore? We’ll see….

  4. McKie is victim of the great player syndrome. Very few great players for whatever reason make great head coaches. Al Golden was a good TE not great. Matt Rhule was basically a scout team player (who got into one game, against Temple ironically). McKie was a great player who couldn’t get along with one of the two great Temple players last year. Fisher seems to be a guy who never played but understands how to put a team together and build relationships.

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