The University of South Florida is getting some new playmates as the American Athletic Conference will be adding six new schools to take the place of Central Florida, Cincinnati, and Houston who along with BYU are leaving the league to join the Big 12. One of the schools joining the league will be Florida Atlantic with former USF head coach Willie Taggart.
Here is the details on the expansion provided to Sports Talk Florida by the AAC.
The six universities will join the nine continuing members – East Carolina, Memphis, Navy (football only), South Florida, SMU, Temple, Tulane, Tulsa and Wichita State (basketball and Olympic sports only) – to bring The American’s membership to 15 schools. The American will compete as a 14-team league in football and in men’s and women’s basketball, among other sports.
“On behalf of the American Athletic Conference presidents, I look forward to years of healthy competition with our six new members,” said Michael Fitts, President of Tulane University and Chair of The American’s Board of Directors. “I am confident that we have not only added fine institutions that share our collective ambition for national success, but we have done so in a deliberate and sensible way that will contribute to the long-term future of the conference.”
“I am extremely pleased to welcome these six outstanding universities to the American Athletic Conference,” said Aresco. “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. And we will continue to provide valuable inventory to our major media rights partner, ESPN, which will feature our members on the most prominent platforms in sports media. Additionally, we increase the value in live content options for CBS Sports, which features selected men’s basketball games on CBS Sports.”
The American will have a presence in four of the top 10, seven of the top 25 and 12 of the top 51 Nielsen media markets. The league will have four teams in the state of Texas, two each in Florida and North Carolina and one each in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Oklahoma and Kansas.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham was founded in 1969 and enrolls more than 22,500 undergraduate and graduate students. The university holds R1 research status in the Carnegie Classification and is a national leader in health care and administration, including the No. 1-ranked master’s program in health care management by U.S. News & World Report. The university is centrally located among The American’s membership and is situated in the Birmingham DMA, which has been ranked No. 1 nationally in college football television ratings for 19 consecutive years.
UAB has recently enjoyed several years of record enrollment, and welcomed its largest-ever freshman class this fall. One in four residents of Birmingham are UAB students, employees or patients of the UAB Health System, while the university accounts for one in every 31 jobs in the state of Alabama.
UAB sponsors 18 sports, including 15 that will compete in the American Athletic Conference. The Blazers have won two Conference USA championships since the return of football in 2017 and partnered with the city of Birmingham and the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center to introduce the 42,000-seat Protective Stadium in 2021. UAB has made 15 NCAA tournament appearance in men’s basketball, advancing to the Eight Eight in 1982, and has 10 postseason appearances in women’s basketball, including an NCAA Sweet 16.
In addition to Protective Stadium, UAB has developed a 46,000-square-foot football operations center and is constructing a state-of-the-art basketball practice facility that will be completed in the spring of 2022. The Blazers’ baseball team plays at the 8,500-seat Regions Field, while the track and field teams compete at the Birmingham CrossPlex, which has hosted four American Athletic Conference indoor championships, and an outdoor complex that opened in 2019. The men’s and women’s soccer teams play at the 5,000-seat BBVA Field, which is considered among the nation’s finest on-campus soccer-only facilities.
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte was founded in 1946 and has rapidly become North Carolina’s urban research university, providing critical discovery, business incubation and workforce development for the Charlotte region and beyond. It is the third-largest institution in the UNC System with nearly 30,500 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 150,000 living alumni. UNC Charlotte is recognized nationally as a leader in innovation, social mobility and student success.
Charlotte sponsors 18 varsity sports, all of which will compete in The American. The 49ers’ football program began in 2013, moved to the FBS level in 2015 and played in a bowl game for the first time in 2019. The men’s basketball program, which began NCAA Division I play in the 1970-71 season, became the youngest to reach the NCAA Final Four when the 49ers played in the 1977 national semifinals. Charlotte has made 11 NCAA tournament appearances in men’s basketball and has made 15 NCAA appearances in men’s soccer, including two College Cup appearances.
The 49ers unveiled Jerry Richardson Stadium in 2013, in conjunction with the launch of the football program. The facility was constructed to be expandable to 40,000 seats and is adjacent to the Judy Rose Football Center, which houses the football operations and administrative functions. The basketball and volleyball programs play in the 9,105-seat Halton Arena, while the baseball and softball teams play in newly renovated facilities within the 49ers’ on campus athletics complex. Belk Track and Field Center/Transamerica Field is a 4,000-seat venue that has hosted numerous NCAA soccer tournament matches and is also home to the 49ers’ accomplished track and field program.
Florida Atlantic University was established in 1961 and serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students representing all 50 states and 140 countries. FAU is the most diverse public university in the state of Florida and has been designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the United States Department of Education.
FAU’s main campus, in Boca Raton, is located less than three miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The university is part of the Miami-Fort Lauderdale media market, which is ranked No. 18 by Nielsen and is a key recruiting area both locally and nationally.
FAU’s recent investment in athletics includes the 2020 opening of the $49 million Schmidt Family Complex for Academic and Athletic Excellence, a modern facility that houses the football suite, academic computer labs and an 11,600-square-foot weight and cardio room.
FAU sponsors 19 sports, including 18 that will compete in The American. The Owls’ football program began in the 2001 season and debuted the near-30,000-seat FAU Stadium in 2011 and has won three conference titles, including two Conference USA championships in the last four years. The Owls have made five bowl appearances, going 4-1 in bowls. The baseball program has made 12 NCAA regional appearances.
The University of North Texas was established in 1890 and currently enrolls more than 42,000 students and counts nearly 500,000 living alumni. North Texas is one of the nation’s largest and most diverse universities, with recognition as both a Minority-Serving Institution and a Hispanic-Serving Institution. The university holds R1 research status from the Carnegie Classification.
North Texas has embarked on a 20-year plan to modernize all of the institution’s athletics facilities and provide added support to student-athletes. The first phases of that project included a 98,000-square-foot indoor practice facility and a new soccer and track and field stadium – both of which opened in 2019.
North Texas has 16 varsity sports, all of which will compete in The American. The Mean Green football team played in the Conference USA championship game in 2017 and won four consecutive conference titles from 2001-04. North Texas won the 2021 conference title in men’s basketball and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championship, while the Mean Green women’s soccer team has never had a losing season, has won 16 conference championships and has advanced to seven NCAA tournaments in 26 years. North Texas has won four NCAA championships in men’s golf.
Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 4,052 undergraduates and 3,484 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for lots of race/class interaction and No. 1 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
Rice has invested in a number of capital projects to support athletics at the highest level. Recent enhancements to the athletics profile include construction of a football operations center, a new indoor training facility, the endowment of the head coaching position and an AstroTurf game field at Rice Stadium. Additional upgrades include enhanced locker rooms, lounges and meeting spaces for basketball and volleyball at Tudor Fieldhouse; premium seating, an indoor batting facility and a next-generation pitching and batting lab at Reckling Park; the opening of the state-of-the-art George R. Brown Tennis Center; and the opening of a new team building for soccer, cross country and track and field teams.
Rice’s addition to The American maintains the conference’s presence in the city of Houston, the nation’s fifth-largest metropolitan area and home to the headquarters of 22 Fortune 500 companies.
Rice sponsors 16 varsity sports that will compete in the American Athletic Conference. Rice was a charter member of the Southwest Conference and has a football pedigree that includes three Cotton Bowl wins as well as an Orange Bowl victory. The Owls won the 2003 NCAA Championship in baseball and have made seven College World Series appearances.
The University of Texas at San Antonio is a Hispanic Serving Institution that is on a rapid trajectory to become a model for student success, a great public research university, and an exemplar for strategic growth and innovative excellence. To achieve this bold vision, UTSA is advancing a $500 million capital campaign and a $500 million academic capital projects effort.
Since its founding in 1969, UTSA has become a prosperity engine for San Antonio and a driver of social mobility for its graduates. The university serves 34,700 students pursuing bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in science, engineering, business, architecture, education, liberal and fine arts and health. Fifty-seven percent of UTSA’s students are Hispanic, and 45% will be the first in their families to earn a college degree. Its alumni network of more than 142,000 spans all 50 states.
As an urban serving university, UTSA is tackling society’s grand challenges, drawing on its academic and research specialties include health, cybersecurity, fundamental futures and social-economic transformation. The university is consistently recognized in Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings. It is also on the fast track to earn Texas’ National Research University Fund eligibility and the prestigious R1 designation from the Carnegie Classification.
UTSA develops champions on the field, in the classroom and in life. It is the only public NCAA Division I institution in the city of San Antonio, the nation’s seventh largest city, and one of the largest in the nation without an NFL franchise. It is the second-largest city in Texas, has one of the largest Hispanic populations in the United States and is home to more than 400 corporate headquarters. San Antonio has hosted 19 NCAA Championships since 1997, including four Men’s Final Fours and three Women’s Final Fours. UTSA will host the 2025 Men’s Final Four.
UTSA sponsors 17 varsity sports, all of which will compete in The American. The Roadrunners play their home football games at the 64,000-seat Alamodome. Their first home football game in 2011 garnered 56,743 spectators. UTSA tied an NCAA record by reaching a bowl game in their sixth season with their appearance in the 2016 New Mexico Bowl while the university made its second bowl appearance in 2020 with its trip to the First Responder Bowl.
UTSA unveiled its 95,000-square-foot Roadrunner Athletics Center of Excellence in August and is embarking on an expansive athletics capital projects effort to develop a new 10,000-seat arena for basketball and volleyball, new baseball and softball stadiums, a dedicated basketball/volleyball training facility and a standalone facility for soccer and track-and-field.
The six new members join a conference that has achieved unprecedented success in the league’s first eight seasons. In football alone, Memphis has registered three 10-win seasons in the last six years (2015, 2017, 2019), including a school-record 12 wins and a Cotton Bowl appearance in 2019. Navy won a program-record 11 games in 2015 and matched that mark in 2019. Temple enjoyed its first 10-win season in school history in 2015. South Florida finished in the top 25 for the first two times in program history (2016, 2017). SMU returned to national prominence in 2019 with a 10-win season, during which the Mustangs were ranked as high as No. 14 nationally. Tulsa returned to the top 25 for the first time in 11 years in 2020. East Carolina earned a top-20 ranking in 2014, while Tulane has played in three consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history. Wichita State has made two NCAA tournament appearances in men’s basketball, won The American’s 2021 regular-season title and has been ranked as high as No. 3 in the Associated Press poll since the Shockers joined the conference in 2017.
The American Athletic Conference was reconstituted in 2013 and serves its members from its headquarters in Irving, Texas. The American sponsors 22 championships, 10 for men and 12 for women, has television partnerships with ESPN, CBS Sports (for select men’s basketball games) and CBS Sports Network (for most Navy home football games), and has a marketing partnership with Learfield.