PHOENIX (AP) — The American Athletic Conference had five bowl teams, two that won 12 games and one big capper by Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's night.
As first seasons go, this was a pretty solid one for the conference formerly known as the Big East.
"It's really validation for us," AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco said. "This was obviously an important night for us."
Louisville was supposed to be the American's best shot at a BCS bowl in the conference's one-and-only season with an automatic berth.
The Cardinals were good behind quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and went on to win the Russell Athletic Bowl, but it was Central Florida that ended up with the conference title and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Knights were given almost no shot in that game, entering it as 17-point underdogs against Baylor, which led the nation in scoring and total offense.
Central Florida shrugged off the outside negativity and pulled off the biggest upset of the bowl season, outlasting the Bears 52-42 Wednesday night with a slew of big plays.
The American will have to work harder next year when college football ditches the BCS for a playoff, jockeying for position with the Mountain West, Sun Belt, Mid-American and Conference USA for one spot in the best bowl games.
But no matter what happens after this, the American has a BCS bowl victory, thanks to UCF, and an added dose of respect.