CRAWFORD | Same clam bake, new faces in the American - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Same clam bake, new faces in the American Athletic Conference

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NEWPORT, R.I. (WDRB) -- It was a swan song for the skybox. The side steps of the Eisenhower House at Fort Adams State Park for the conference football media day clam bake has been the traditional haunt for University of Louisville types for years.

Tom Jurich christened the spot the "skybox" a few years back and the name has stuck. Monday night, the skybox was host to its last party for U of L.

Jurich wasn't there. Neither was Rutgers' athletic director Julie Hermann. Neither was afforded a vote in this week's American Athletic Conference meetings, with their schools leaving after this season.

More changes.

Some unusual mix-ups. Three U of L sports information types were forced to share a room with one bed because of a reservations snafu. There were some unexpected hits to players' credit cards.

But mainly, it was a night of unusual feeling. New schools were at the seafood buffet, but there didn't seem to be the kind of happiness that there was when U of L was in the same position back in 2005.

ESPN, which sent a legion of personalities to Southeastern Conference media days, wasn't represented in any major way. Even the seemingly ubiquitous Brett McMurphy was back in Bristol, with a handful of Atlantic Coast Conference coaches in town for the ESPN "car wash" treatment on Tuesday.

Where was The American's face time? Well, it was in Bristol on Monday. Teddy Bridgewater spent the day walking from studio to studio, show to show, and acquitted himself well.

Bridgewater, among other things, survived the inane banter of "First Take," revealed that he has taken out a $10 million insurance policy against catastrophic injury, and spoke about rival quarterback Johnny Manziel, who unlike Bridgewater, stays in the headlines off the field as well as on.

"He's just had a rough summer," Bridgewater said. "But he can't let his summer dictate the way his season goes. I'm a big fan of Johnny Football. I wish for nothing but the best for him."

Asked at the clam bake how he liked the ESPN experience, Bridgewater summed it up in one word: "Exhausting."

U of L coach Charlie Strong did not take part in the ESPN trek. He was on his phone periodically through the night, but had no answer to the night's biggest question -- is Michael Dyer coming?

"No news, no change in status," U of L sports information director Rocco Gasparro told anyone who asked, and that was just about everyone.

They wandered to the skybox, some old friends, some people from new schools that didn't realize what was going on.

WDRB, the only Louisville television station in attendance, scavenged for some national media types to talk to. Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated came into view. "Surely there are better national media people than me to talk to," he said.

Actually, no, Pete. Smile for the camera.

When asked if Louisville really has a prayer of winning a national championship, he said, "Stranger things have happened. In the final year of the BCS, who knows?"

Back at the skybox, a bunch of kids wearing Arizona hats scurry past. No, wait. That's the new American Athletic Conference logo. U of L will wear it for only one season, then will be gone, to the ACC. At the day's golf event, Steve Andress learned the league does not want to be the AAC. It wants to be "the American." Good luck with that.

Maybe, once the league has its own membership and solidifies behind the new blood, there will be joy in this yearly Newport meeting again. Right now, it's merely awkward.

But the lobster is always good.

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