As the University of South Florida makes a case to join Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston in the Big 12 in the next part of conference expansion the American Athletic Conference is making a move to add six new teams to replace the three leaving for the Power 5 conference.
The American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco created an expansion committee featuring four athletic directors — Mike Kelly of South Florida, Laird Veatch of Memphis, Rick Hart of SMU and Chet Gladchuk of Navy. There goal was to expand the conference and to replace those three schools that left. The group had conversations with Mountain West members Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State and San Diego State but those discussions were preliminary and did not show any interests in movement to the east from those schools.
So, the AAC went after teams they felt could boost like they did UCF, Cincinnati and Houston by proposing the adding of schools with great long term potential so Florida Atlantic, the University of Alabama -Birmingham, and the University of North Carolina – Charlotte, will be heading to the AAC from the east coast while Texas will be well represented with the additions of University of Texas San Antonio, North Texas and Houston based Rice University all expected to get invitations to join the league as per reports from our friends at CBS Sports as well as Yahoo.
The invites to the schools could go out as soon late this month or November.
According to the source, the earliest they could join the conference would be the 2023-24 season, but it depends on what the AAC works out with UCS, Cincinnati and Houston, the schools that are leaving. AAC bylaws require schools to give a 27-month notice before they leave and pay a $10 million buyout fee.
“We do want to get back to either 10 or 12 [schools],” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco told the Orlando Sentinel in September. “We have some good candidates and we’re only dealing with candidates who have approached us — who have expressed an interest in us. It’s proceeding and I’m reasonably confident we’re going to end up as a strong conference and our goal is to be even stronger than before.”
Aresco also stated earlier this year that “Our remaining schools are unwavering in their commitment to competing and succeeding at the highest level and we will not allow external factors to put a ceiling on our potential,” Aresco said in a statement. “We remain unified and resolute and will consider all of our options as we move The American into our second decade and beyond.”
The way members of the AAC expansion group looks at the addition of teams is a way to protect the conference should they once again get raided by the Big 12.
Clearly the folks at Conference USA would see their top teams leaving with UTSA Roadrunners presently holding down the AP Top 25 for the first time at No. 24 after a 7-0 start. The two other crown jewels of C-USA are UAB and FAU both have up and coming programs having captured the last four C-USA championships dating back to 2017.
Charlotte is a school USF fans know well because of the old Sun Belt Conference, the first on the Bulls played in which was a basketball only league. As for football the 49ers started in 2013 so they are a bit new to say the least. Two other Texas schools featuring “The Mean Green” from North Texas is a good young brand with a great deal to like about what they are doing and then comes a bit of a surprise in the addition of Rice.
The key for this group in AAC expansion was market size featuring teams in Houston, San Antonio, Birmingham, Charlotte and on the edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The AAC hopes by adding those teams they can hold on to all the present group of schools that include SMU, Memphis, East Carolina, Temple, Tulsa, South Florida, Navy and Tulane.
But USF, SMU and Memphis remain on the Big 12 expansion list not in that order at least for now. We should know when the next wave of Big 12 expansion will come after the Pac 12 does their television contract which could be announced before the end of the year. There are some in the Big 12 holding out hope that they may be able to attract Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah to their league but that is very unlikely to happen because FOX, ESPN and a three streaming services will overpay for the rights. Plus the very lucrative Pac 12 Network needs someone to take over the expanding the footprint of the network something both Fox and ESPN have done with ease the new deal will keep all of the conference members happy.
So, that will mean another trip for the Big 12 this time to return to the AAC and the Mountain West to grab Boise State, and Memphis, SMU or USF or all three if they chose to go to 16 members as some reports have stated they are considering.
However, for now at least the AAC is