The American Athletic Conference adds UAB, Texas-San Antonio, Rice, North Texas, Charlotte and Florida Atlantic to the league, replacing three schools that are scheduled to leave for the Big 12 Conference and rising to 14 teams.
The AAC announced the additions on Thursday, a move it hopes will stabilize the conference in the short term and allow it to resist future poaching of its members by richer leagues.
The conference indicated when exactly the new members would join yet to be determined.
The American, formerly the Big East, has been a nurturing conference for the Power Five leagues for nearly two decades. More recently, the Big 12 announced the addition of AAC powers in Cincinnati, Houston and central Florida to replace Oklahoma and Texas linked to the Southeastern Conference.
The Sooners and Longhorns have announced they will join the SEC in 2025, but a faster move is possible.
The AAC decision deprives Conference USA of six schools, leaving that league both looking for new members and trying to fend off other poachers. The Sun Belt said it wants to expand beyond its current 10 football members and that some of C-USA’s remaining eight schools will be geographic matches.
The American was born in 2013 out of the downfall of Big East football, rebuilding himself mostly around C-USA schools. The AAC emerged as the strongest of the so-called Group of Five football conferences during the college football playoff era. Five times in seven seasons, the American has won the New Year’s Six Bowl spot that goes to the highest-ranked G5 conference champion.
But four of those championships were won by schools now heading to the Big 12.
The AAC has targeted schools located in major media markets and fertile recruiting territory, hoping that with better exposure and more income they will become the next UCF.
The AAC is at the start of a 10-year deal with ESPN that will pay conference schools between $ 7 million and $ 8 million per year over the term of the contract. It’s unclear whether the deal’s value will be affected by the change in membership, but the contract makes the richest conference in major college football outside of the Power Five.
Conference USA has floundered in recent seasons by comparison, with TV deals that generated well under $ 1 million per year per school and made league games hard to find for its fans.
The most recent deal offers more consistency with CBS Sports Network as the primary cable TV home of C-USA games and some streaming on ESPN +.