Mike Aresco: AAC plans to provide student athlete stipends

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

The AAC commissioner made it clear that he is committed to helping the league compete with the NCAA's 5 power conferences.

HARTFORD, Conn. -- With half of its men's basketball teams ranked in the Top 25 and its 2013 football champion, Central Florida, fresh off a Fiesta Bowl win, American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco has reason to be confident in his league.

And Aresco made it clear on Saturday that he is committed to keeping the AAC competitive, particularly if conferences begin offering athletic stipends to cover the full cost of college attendance.

"As a conference, we've already committed to providing a full cost of attendance stipend if that's passed," he told media in Hartford shortly before UConn faced Memphis at home. "Whatever it ends up being, whether it’s a fixed amount, we’ve committed as a conference that we’re going to do it."

Aresco explained that while the league does not have the particulars worked out yet -- for example how individual schools decide to provide stipends, if at all -- he is confident that the AAC has the resources to keep up with the power five conferences.

Aresco's comments come amid discussion that those conferences -- the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC and Pac-12 -- could seek financial autonomy from the NCAA, though what exactly that means is unclear.

"There’s no real opposition among the NCAA (to autonomy)," Aresco said. "The real issue is going to be how it’s defined and what we as a conference are going to do."

Without the same level of revenue and prestige as the power five, the AAC will likely need to monitor what those leagues do and make decisions accordingly. Still, Aresco emphasized that he believes the AAC is capable of reaching the level of the best conferences in the country.

"We have said from the beginning that our goal is to be a competitive conference at the highest level," he said.

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