The University of Texas at San Antonio is headed to the American Athletic Conference. All sports will make the jump including the football program which is currently undefeated at 7-0. UTSA joins five other Conference USA schools in the move: Charlotte University, Florida Atlantic University (FAU), North Texas, Rice University, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said Thursday morning that no date is set yet to integrate the additions.
“This move will further elevate UTSA as a national brand and advance our goal of transforming lives as San Antonio’s nationally recognized NCAA Division I program,” UTSA Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Lisa Campos said in a press release on Thursday morning. “It is a great time to be a Roadrunner.”
— UTSA Athletics (@UTSAAthletics) October 20, 2021
Why Change Conferences Now?
The opportunity for UTSA to move conferences is the conclusion of another chapter in a year of realignment in the NCAA. It all started with the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma’s decision this summer to move to the SEC. The Big 12 added AAC members Cincinnati, Houston, and the University of Central Florida (UCF) to fill the void left by UT and OU. The additions brought the conference back up to 12 schools.
CBS’s Dennis Dodd first listed UTSA, FAU, and UAB among candidates to join the AAC back in September. The move would extend the conference’s footprint further west. With the news official, the AAC now has a heavier presence in Texas. Despite losing Houston, Thursday’s announcement increases the conference now triples their in-state holding. Additions North Texas, Rice, and UTSA for most collegiate sports, including football, join holdover Southern-Methodist University (SMU).
Moving to the AAC brings great benefit to its new schools as it is just in its third year of a 12-year television contract for football with ESPN. Current AAC schools are receiving around $7 million per year for their cut of the deal. That figure is expected to decrease with the increase in AAC-member schools, who are coming from a lighter conference like Conference USA.
“We’re engaging with ESPN,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said on a call with the media on Thursday when asked about the AAC’s deal with ESPN. “I’m confident that we’ll be supported,” he continued, declining to go into further detail.
— The American (@American_Conf) October 21, 2021
Conference USA Losing Top Teams
The addition of FAU and UAB to the AAC takes a lot of strength from Conference USA. The two programs that account for the last four conference championships in football have rotated between the two. Losing UTSA is a big hit too. At 7-0 and ranked No. 24 in the Week 8 AP Poll, UTSA is a strong candidate to win the title this year. Fellow defector Charlotte currently leads Conference USA’s East Division opposite UTSA in the West.
The timing of the move is interesting, with the conference portion of the football schedule in full swing. It will be interesting to see if the departing schools experience added hostility the rest of the way.