Mike Aresco, the commissioner of the American Athletic Conference that includes UCF and USF, is a former executive with ESPN and CBS Sports. He recently did an interview on major topics in college sports — TV's future impact, the mounting worries about concussions, etc.
Responses were edited for brevity. Today is Part I with the second part of the interview on Wednesday.
Q: The concussion issues have gotten pretty scary I guess?
A: It's something you've got to take very seriously. Interestingly, Brian Hainline, the NCAA chief medical advisor, said while concussions are obviously a very serious issue, one that could be even more serious is mental health of our student-athletes. Pressures are tough, when kids come in the adjustments they have to make. That's an issue too.
Q: The SEC is actually putting a medical expert in the booth who can pull players when they feel like they're in trouble.
A: We saw that. Anything that anybody is doing is all to the good. But we felt we put in a protocol that took into account the needs of our student athletes. We think it's a good protocol. Education is key, we're educating anyone who has anything to do with our student athletes during a game. I think that's really, really important. ... Even with parents we want to promote concussion awareness with parents. Later on, if their are symptoms at home we want the parents to know what they need to do.
Q: Why did it take so long to bring changes?
A: That's a tough one. I think everything is an evolution. I honestly do. I think there's always been a concern ... but as you learn more about the dangers, everybody reacts and makes sure they are dealing with problems. Maybe in former times people weren't as aware of some of the dangers of concussion.
Q: Is helmet technology something you're getting involved in?
A: We've been approached by some firms that have some new technology that would be better in helmets that would detect concussions, and that's something we're definitely going to look at. I know my football staff had some conversations with people that were involved with that kind of research.
Q: With your background I'd think you'd be as qualified as anyone to answer this one. Where do you think TV is going?
A: I think TV is going to change, not dramatically in the short term. TV is still going to be TV. But technology is going to continue to improve. You've seen what HDTV has done in a very short period of time, it's transformed viewing of games and it's probably going to have an impact on attendance because the experience now on a huge screen in so crystal clear you feel like you could walk into your screen and be at the game. ... I think what you will probably see down the road is a convergence of Internet and TV. As it is now, if you look back a decade ago the online games that were put on at the time, they looked like video games. They weren't that easy to watch, you didn't feel like you were watching TV. Now if you watch ESPN3 or you watch our digital network it's as though you are watching TV. ... I think down the road I would look for Google and Apple TV and others to potential want to use sports to begin a franchise.
Q: That's another potentially incredible financial windfall for sports, isn't it?
A: I think it could be as long as there is no cannibalization. If online becomes a competitor to TV, they become almost the same thing, then yes you could open up a whole new revenue stream for conferences or anybody who holds rights. But in the end if it begins cannibalizing the revenue that you would gain from TV or whatever ... I have a feeling it's going to create a new source of revenue because there are going to be more competitors in the market place.
WEDNESDAY: Aresco gives his views on autonomy and his league's place in a changing NCAA.
Dave Jones is a sports columnist at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @DaveJonesSports.