Jonathan Mayer / Staff Writer
The American Athletic Conference (AAC) announced yesterday that they will be expanding their league to 15 total teams, with six coming from Conference-USA.
FIU has not made an announcement regarding plans to move out of C-USA. Regardless, the loss of six teams in the conference will affect who the Panthers play for the majority of a season. Common matchups such as the Shula Bowl are no longer guaranteed.
The list of Conference-USA teams making the move to the AAC are as follows:
-Florida Atlantic Owls
-North Texas Mean Green
-Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners
All six teams submitted applications to become members of the AAC, and were approved on Thursday morning. Most major sports such as football, basketball, baseball, and soccer will be affected.
“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”, said Mike Aresco, the Commissioner of the AAC, in a statement.
A start date is yet to be determined for the move, but speculation is leading towards 2023.
As it stands, eight teams still remain in Conference USA for now:
-Florida International Panthers
-Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
-Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
-Marshall Thundering Herd
-Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
-Southern Miss Golden Eagles
-Texas-El Paso Miners
-Old Dominion Monarchs
The Sun Belt, another conference in Division 1 Athletics, is also in talks of expanding, targeting C-USA teams such as Southern Miss and Marshall.
It’s been a busy year for conference realignment all over NCAA Athletics. It began with the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners, two schools from the Big 12 Conference, announcing their decision to move to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) next year.
Not long after, multiple teams from the AAC- the Cincinnati Bearcats, Houston Cougars, and Central Florida Knights- announced they will be joining the Big 12 in the near future.
Michael Fitts, President of Tulane and Chair on the American Athletic Board of Directors adds, “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.”
With C-USA potentially losing either six or eight programs, they are also looking to expand. It’s been speculated that the conference is targeting the James Madison Dukes and Liberty Flames, the former being an FCS school, and the latter being independent.