The SEC isn’t the only major conference eyeing big expansion plans. The American Athletic Conference just made a move that will bring add a half dozen Group of Five programs into the fold.
On Thursday, The American announced that UAB, Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice and UTSA have all joined their conference. The date of their membership remains to be determined.
In an official statement, American Athletic Conference Board of Directors and Commissioner Mike Aresco welcomed the six universities into the fold. He believes that adding them will help the conference expand its goals and continue to grow it.
“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 (@American_Conf) October 21, 2021
What Aresco didn’t address is where the six schools are coming from: Conference USA, which now faces another major exodus.
The 14-team conference had to fight tooth and nail to stay relevant after losing Cincinnati, Louisville, TCU and many others in 2005. Then they were at a crossroads again in 2013 and 2014 as Memphis, Houston, SMU and more joined The American.
Charlotte and UAB in particular only returned very recently. To see them leave again after so short a time must sting.
Conference USA will now be reduced to eight full members. Meanwhile, The American will become one of the biggest in the country.