American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco is retiring from his position on May 31, 2024, after more than a decade. Aresco has presided over the conference since its final season as the Big East in 2012.
As just the Big East's fourth commissioner, Aresco was tasked with overseeing a period of heavy transition. After several key schools left for power conference opportunities, the league was restructured into the American Athletic Conference on July 1, 2013.
Under his watch, the AAC emerged as the preeminent non-autonomy conference. The league produced four New Year's Six bowl winners, six women's Final Four teams and two men's Final Four teams. In 2021, Cincinnati became the only Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff in its four-team existence. He has long been the most vocal critic of the "Power Five" moniker, even going as far to feature "Power Six" branding across the AAC.
"It has been the supreme privilege of my long career in sports to have had the opportunity to lead this great conference from its reinvention in 2013, and to represent its outstanding student-athletes, coaches and administrators," Aresco said in a statement. "I am grateful to the Board of Directors for giving me this opportunity to serve ... there have also been some disappointments and difficulties along the way, most notably, the P5-G5 divide, realignment, College Football Playoff access for our deserving teams and some competitive heartbreak in big games. But these have not affected in any way my enthusiasm in leading this terrific and resilient conference or my optimism for its long-term future."
Membership retention has arguably been the most difficult job for Aresco. In September 2021, Houston, Cincinnati and UCF all announced plans to join the Big 12. Just this year, SMU announced a move (with Cal and Stanford from the Pac-12) to the ACC. Aresco moved fast, adding six schools from Conference USA that began competition in 2023. Army joins the fold next year.
Aresco's departure is just the latest among the 11 managers of the College Football Playoff. Including Aresco, seven of the 10 FBS commissioners will have flipped since 2020. The Big Ten has transitioned twice, in fact, from Jim Delaney to Kevin Warren to Tony Petitti. Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, who sits on the CFP Management Committee, is also retiring. The committee is charged with all the day-to-day operations of the College Football Playoff, including the details and logistics of expanding the 12-team field.
Prior to his work as a conference commissioner, Aresco spent years as a key television executive in college athletics. The leader of college sports programming at CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network helped the network acquire exclusive NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament rights. Aresco previously managed college sports rights at ESPN.