The breakup of the Big East Conference has had ramifications throughout the world of college athletics, all the way down to Milligan College’s league.
While the breakaway schools known as the “Catholic 7” have been allowed to keep the Big East name, the remaining members and newcomers have chosen to call themselves the American Athletic Conference.
As patriotic as the new league sounds, it struck a nerve as soon as the name was announced last week. Milligan competes in the Appalachian Athletic Conference, commonly known as the AAC. The American Athletic Conference figures to become known as the AAC as well.
“When I saw that, I thought will they go ‘acronym’ like everybody else does or will they refer to themselves in some other way,” Mark Fox, Milligan’s vice president for student development, said Thursday.
It’s not that anybody was going to confuse Louisville, UConn and Cincinnati with Milligan, Montreat and Union. But fair is fair, and the NAIA’s version of the AAC was first.
“It struck me as being a little odd,” AAC Commissioner John Sullivan said Thursday. “I was asked if anybody contacted me with regard to the name and the initials. The first I heard about it was the press release.
“My first reaction was it’s a little strange that nobody made any attempt to contact us. It was strange that they would choose a name like that.”
The new “AAC” says it will go by the shortened name “American” instead of the AAC acronym. Time will tell if that really happens.
It seems like the league either didn’t do its homework or it figured a little, old NAIA conference doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
“It does surprise me in our modern world that someone wouldn’t do a Google search,” Sullivan said.
Milligan’s conference has been called the AAC since 2001 when the old TVAC — first the Tennessee Valley Athletic Association and then the Tennessee-Virginia Athletic Association — began to expand.
Twelve years later, the league has 11 schools — with one to be added next year — in six states.
“We’ll have a league meeting in May and it’ll be interesting to hear the discussion,” Fox said. “I’m sure it will be discussed.We certainly don’t have to do anything, but I think it would be shortsighted on our part not to strategically think about it.”
The AAC acronym is just one typo away from ACC, the powerful Atlantic Coast Conference.
“There’s a little confusion there,” Fox said. “We’ve had that issue. I question if they thought about that on a bigger scale. I think we get some traffic on our website because of the confusion with the ACC. I can’t imagine what’ll happen when they start their Web stuff and how they’re gonna distinguish it.”
Sullivan said he’d been asked during an interview if the league would entertain thoughts of giving up its Internet domain name, aacsports.com.
The answer was a quick no.
It’s not the first time the AAC has had its name infringed upon. Sullivan, whose office is based in Asheville, N.C., said a high school conference in North Carolina named itself the Appalachian Athletic Conference.
The collegiate AAC quickly contacted that league, and it changed its name.
Sullivan has been contacted by ESPN and CBS for his reaction to the Big East-AAC issue.
The “real”AAC relishes getting its name out on a national stage, kind of like the politician who says he doesn’t care what the newspapers write about him, as long as they spell his name correctly.
“The reaction from some of the folks in the conference was ‘What the heck. Free publicity,’ ” Sullivan said. “Nobody ever complains about that.”