American Athletic Conference officially adds 6 new members

·3 min read

The American Athletic Conference has officially added six new members.

The league announced Thursday morning that it has accepted membership applications from Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA. The conference did not announce when these schools will begin playing in the AAC, but multiple outlets reported that 2023 is the target year.

The addition of these six schools will create a 14-team league for football and men’s and women’s basketball, joining East Carolina, Memphis, Navy, South Florida, SMU, Temple, Tulane, Tulsa and Wichita State.

In all, the AAC will have 15 members, but Navy is a football-only member and Wichita State is a member for basketball and Olympic sports. All six of the AAC’s new members are coming from Conference USA.

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 08: An American Athletic Conference logo hangs during the game against the Temple Owls and the Cincinnati Bearcats on October 8, 2021, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The American Athletic Conference is getting six new members. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The additions come after the AAC lost three of its key members — Cincinnati, Houston and UCF — to the Big 12 last month. The Big 12 sought new members after Texas and Oklahoma signaled their intention to leave for the SEC. 

UConn previously left the AAC after the 2019 season in order to join the Big East in basketball. The football program plays as an FBS independent.

Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reported Monday that the AAC hoped to add members from “fertile recruiting areas such as Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Charlotte and Birmingham."

“This is a strategic expansion that accomplishes a number of goals as we take the conference into its second decade,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said. “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.”

According to Thamel, the new members are expected to earn $2 million annually from the AAC’s TV deal with the remaining members continuing to average approximately $7 million annually.

“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,” Aresco said. “Additionally, we increase the value in live content options for CBS Sports, which features selected men’s basketball games on CBS Sports.”

Earlier this fall, the AAC looked to the Mountain West for potential expansion opportunities with Boise State, Air Force, Colorado State and San Diego State as its targets. Eventually, those universities opted to remain in the Mountain West, leading the AAC to look to Conference USA.

Left with just eight members, the future of Conference USA is very much up in the air as the Sun Belt also examines expansion opportunities.

Among the targets are Conference USA members Southern Mississippi, Marshall and Old Dominion, Thamel reported Wednesday. Southern Miss could be the closest to jumping ship for the Sun Belt.

On top of that, Conference USA is looking toward Liberty, an FBS independent program, and James Madison, a highly successful FCS program, in its own expansion pursuits.

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