- ESPN News Services
Six schools — Florida Atlantic, Charlotte, North Texas, UTSA, Rice and UAB — have accepted invitations to join the American Athletic Conference, the league announced Thursday.
No date has been set for the schools to join the conference, but a source told ESPN that the earliest they could join would be the 2023-24 season.
Once all the announced realignment shuffles out, the additions would give the American 14 teams in football and basketball.
“I am extremely pleased to welcome these six outstanding universities to the American Athletic Conference,” American commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. “This is a strategic expansion that accomplishes a number of goals as we take the conference into its second decade. We are adding excellent institutions that are established in major cities and have invested in competing at the highest level. We have enhanced geographical concentration which will especially help the conference’s men’s and women’s basketball and Olympic sports teams.”
The American is replacing Cincinnati, UCF and Houston, which were accepted to join the Big 12 last month after that conference learned it was losing Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC.
According to AAC bylaws, those schools’ exit date would be July 1, 2024, though Aresco told ESPN in mid-September that the league would be willing to negotiate an earlier exit fee to accommodate their departures.
The schools will join American holdovers East Carolina, Memphis, Navy (football only), South Florida, SMU, Temple, Tulane, Tulsa and Wichita State (which does not compete in football). The additions will give the American four members in Texas. The league office recently relocated to the Dallas area after being headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island.
The six schools are all leaving Conference USA, leaving it with eight members. The Sun Belt has said it is interested in expanding beyond its current 10 football members, and some of Conference USA’s remaining eight schools would be geographic fits.
The American was born in 2013 from the downfall of Big East football, rebuilding around mostly Conference USA schools. The American emerged as the strongest of the Group of 5 conferences when it comes to football during the College Football Playoff era. Five times in seven seasons, the American has earned the New Year’s Six bowl spot that goes to the highest-ranked Group of 5 conference champion.
But four of those championships were won by the schools now heading to the Big 12.
Information from ESPN’s Heather Dinich and The Associated Press was used in this report.