One year after the impressive SMU hiring of Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, South Florida and Houston continue to up the ante and the overall profile of the American Athletic Conference.
First, Orlando Antigua was the eventual winner in the South Florida sweepstakes. He may not have been their first choice to succeed Stan Heath, but Antigua comes with an impressive resume, none more so than the place he is coming from - the University of Kentucky where he has been serving as an assistant since 2009. Antigua gets the job one week after former/current Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello had the job for about 24 hours before a background check threw up a red flag. Even though Antigua has no prior head coaching experience he has coached under two excellent coaches in Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh (his alma mater) and Coach Cal at UK. You could argue he's more than qualified to lead his own program and will get five years to prove it.
Yesterday, the Houston Cougars reportedly came to an agreement with two-time NCAA loser Kelvin Sampson, whose 5-year "show cause" penalty ended in 2013. Sampson is a proven winner even if some of his tactics are improper, although it could be argued that some of his prior transgressions would today be legal under new NCAA guidelines. But you have to ask if those are the rules he broke that people know of, what has he done that he wasn't caught doing...yet? Is he a serial offender or will he be "humbled and changed" like the recently reborn Bruce Pearl who was hired at Auburn after his embarrassing ouster from Tennessee. There's no question Kelvin Sampson is a good basketball coach. He's compiled a record of 496-271 in his time at Montana Tech, Washington State, Oklahoma, and Indiana. The bigger question is will he stay clean this time? He, like Antigua, will get five years to prove himself.
With the departure of Louisville, the AAC is going to need coaches like these as well as current standouts Cronin, Ollie, and Pastner to carry the flag for the conference. There's a TON of potential with this conference. Temple won't be down long. South Florida has been good recently. Houston is a good coach away from a powerhouse I believe. SMU has Larry Brown obviously. UC, Uconn, and Memphis are staples. For basketball this could be a dynamite conference in a few years. Football? Well.....