AAC Commish: "The Risks Just Weren’t Worth It"

Mike Aresco explains why the AAC canceled its conference tournament

Zach Gelb
March 13, 2020 - 9:41 am
Jarron Cumberland Bearcats

USA Today Images


Due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, the AAC canceled its conference tournament Thursday. Later that afternoon, the NCAA canceled the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments, among other sporting events.

“Ultimately, the health and safety of our students was paramount,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said on The Zach Gelb Show. “It always is. We felt that the risks just weren’t worth it. To play would be a decision we couldn’t defend because we’d be putting our players at risk. This virus, it’s serious. It is progressing. That’s the other problem. It’s getting worse – and it will get worse before it gets better. And so, we felt what if a case emerges and we’ve had these games and now we’ve put all these kids at risk? It just didn’t seem right to us. Ultimately, we made the decision.”

Many players, coaches and fans were upset by the decision, but many also knew it was the right call. Still, for many players across the country, it’s a sad end to their college careers. 

“You hate it,” Aresco said. “This was an opportunity that doesn’t come again for some of these student-athletes. It’s a tough thing to not be able to play the tournament. Yet we felt their health and safety needed to be protected.”

The coronavirus pandemic has spread to more than 100 countries, infecting more than 125,000 people and killing over 4,700. Both of those numbers are sure to rise in the coming weeks.

“In the end, there’s so many other bigger problems right now facing the country with this in terms of jobs, in terms of livelihood,” Aresco said. “Of course the biggest problem is trying to [make it] so people don’t continue to get ill. It’s so dangerous, especially for older people. Everything else flows from that.”

Ironically, Americans often turn to sports as an escape or as a way to heal. That won’t be possible with the coronavirus.

“People turn to sports in times like this,” Aresco said. “After 9/11, the sports scene helped people restore morale. It was a way to commemorate and to honor the victims and the people that had helped out. Unfortunately, we can’t do that now.”