Dec 18, 2021; Shreveport, LA, USA; UAB Blazers running back DeWayne McBride (22) breaks a tackle against the BYU Cougars linebacker Max Tooley (31) during the fourth quarter during the 2021 Independence Bowl at Independence Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Six schools to join AAC for 2023-24 season

Six schools will join the American Athletic Conference on July 1, 2023, the conference announced Wednesday. The universities already had been accepted as members but the entry date had yet to be finalized.

Joining ahead of the 2023 fall sports season are UAB, FAU, Charlotte, North Texas, Rice and UTSA. The timing coincides with the departure of current member schools Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to the Big 12 next summer.

“We are extremely pleased and excited to welcome our new members to the conference in 2023, as we begin our second decade,” commissioner Mike Aresco said in a news release. “Our incoming schools comprise a distinguished group with attributes that will enhance our conference’s Power 6 goals. We have already seen the investment and commitment that these institutions have made as they prepare to compete in The American, and, together with our accomplished incumbent institutions, the conference is assured of many years of championship-level competition as part of a bright future that will build on the extraordinary legacy of the past decade.”

The conference switches were triggered earlier this year when Oklahoma and Texas announced their intention to move from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference. That left openings to fill in the Big 12, triggering team shifts across the country.

The American will have 15 schools, though not every school will compete in a full complement of sports.

The league will be made up of the six new teams, plus East Carolina, Memphis, Navy (football only), South Florida, SMU, Temple, Tulane, Tulsa and Wichita State (basketball and Olympic Sports only).

–Field Level Media

Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) instructs Cincinnati Bearcats tight end Josiah Deguara (83) in the first quarter of an NCAA football game against the UCLA Bruins, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.

Ucla Bruins At Cincinnati Bearcats Aug 29

AAC, 3 teams agree on 2023 departure date

Cincinnati, UCF and Houston will join the Big 12 in the 2023 fall seasons under an agreement reached with the American Athletic Conference.

The three schools announced last year that they were heading to the Big 12 but when remained the question mark. AAC commissioner Mike Aresco announced Friday that the conference’s member institutions voted to end the membership of the three schools effective July 1, 2023.

The schools had been expected to join the Big 12 no earlier than July 2024. The earlier date was settled after an undisclosed financial settlement, Cincinnati.com reported.

“All three institutions enjoyed tremendous success under the American Athletic Conference banner, and all three were instrumental in taking the conference to great heights, both athletically and academically,” Aresco said. “We wish them the best and look forward to having them compete in our conference in 2022-23.”

BYU also is joining the conference in 2023.

The announcement last year that Texas and Oklahoma would move to the Southeastern Conference in 2025 set off a chain reaction in college sports. With the Big 12 moving to replace those two programs and expand, other conferences then underwent a shift in membership and numbers.

With Cincinnati, Houston and UCF joining the Big 12, the American will add FAU, North Texas, Rice, Charlotte, UAB and UTSA.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2021; Greenville, North Carolina, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) throws the ball during the second half against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4 Cincinnati looks to make CFP case vs. No. 21 Houston

Host Cincinnati is playing Houston for more than just the American Athletic Conference championship on Saturday.

The No. 4 Bearcats (12-0, 8-0 AAC) hope a victory over the No. 21 Cougars (11-1, 8-0) will be enough to earn a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff, whose participants will be selected Sunday.

No school outside a Power 5 Conference (Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and Southeastern Conference) has played in the CFP since its inception for the 2014 season.

That stat doesn’t concern fifth-year Bearcats coach Luke Fickell.

“I don’t over-worry about all the other things,” he said Monday. “It’s never been about anything other than playing for a championship.”

Fickell would like to keep the outside noise from distracting his team, but it might be harder with rumors swirling that he is a contender for the Notre Dame job after Brian Kelly left suddenly to become the coach at LSU on Monday.

“It’s the same way I am with rankings,” Fickell said Tuesday. “It’s the same way I am unfortunately with a lot of other things — with the exception of recruiting — that I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to it.”

Houston wouldn’t mind being the spoiler after being overlooked because of all the attention focused on Cincinnati. The Cougars can match a school record with their 12th straight victory and have won each of their past six road games, including a 45-17 decision at UConn last week.

Cincinnati has won 26 straight home games, a fact not lost on Houston coach Dana Holgorsen.

“I’m not going to lie, I wish this was at a neutral site,” he said Monday. “If the game was played in Houston, I think they would say the same thing.

“You’d rather have a neutral site as opposed to going and being the visiting team, especially when both teams are 8-0 right now, but that’s neither here nor there.”

The Bearcats are in their third straight AAC championship. They lost 29-24 at Memphis in 2019 and defeated Tulsa 27-24 in Cincinnati last year.

Houston’s last championship was 24-13 win vs. Temple in the inaugural AAC title game in 2015.

The only blemish on Houston’s record this season was 38-21 loss to Texas Tech in the opener.

The Saturday matchup features teams that get after it on both sides of the ball. Cincinnati and Houston join Alabama and Georgia as the four FBS schools to rank top-10 nationally in scoring offense and total defense.

Houston ranks 10th in points per game (38.8) and allows 288.6 yards per contest, which ranks sixth.

The Bearcats are eighth in both scoring (39.6 points per game) and total defense (303.3 yards per game).

Both team’s quarterbacks, Houston’s Clayton Tune (3,013 yards) and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder (3,000), have compiled gaudy passing numbers.

“It’s going to be a big challenge,” Holgorsen said of facing Cincinnati. “I mean, they’re deserving of where they’re currently ranked at the CFP, probably got to be ranked higher in my opinion based on what they’ve done here over the last couple years and the quality of football that they’ve played.”

Cincinnati beat visiting Houston 38-20 last season, but the Cougars hold a 15-12 edge in the all-time series.

–Field Level Media

Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) raises the championship trophy following the American Athletic Conference championship football game against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Bearcats won, 27-24.

Aac Championship Tulsa Golden Hurricane At Cincinnati Bearcats Football Dec 19

Six C-USA schools accept invitations to join AAC

The American Athletic Conference announced Thursday that six schools from Conference USA have accepted invitations to join the AAC.

No timetable has been set Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA to move to the AAC, but ESPN reported that the 2023-24 season would be the earliest date.

The realignment will boost the AAC membership to 14 teams in football and basketball, while leaving C-USA with eight members.

“I am extremely pleased to welcome these six outstanding universities to the American Athletic Conference,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. “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.”

The AAC is replacing Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, which were all accepted to join the Big 12 last month.

Conference USA rules call for a departure fee of around $3 million per school, according to Yahoo Sports.

–Field Level Media

Oct 3, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; A detailed view of a football on the field during the second half between the Miami Dolphins and the Indianapolis Colts at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: 6 C-USA schools apply to join AAC

Six Conference USA teams are bidding to join the American Athletic Conference, according to multiple media reports.

Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA filed applications to the AAC, ESPN reported Tuesday. News of the six schools’ interest in changing conference was initially reported Monday by Yahoo Sports.

The prospective moves continue the shifting landscape of college sports conferences. The latest round of moves began when Oklahoma and Texas announced their intention to leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference.

The Big 12 subsequently agreed to add Cincinnati, Houston and UCF (all from the AAC) as well as BYU (a football independent but a member of the West Coast Conference in most other sports).

The AAC currently features 11 football schools, but the departure of the three universities to the Big 12 plus the potential addition of six Conference USA schools would bring the membership to 14. The AAC has Navy as a football-only program, while Wichita State is an AAC member for most sports but does not field a football team.

According to ESPN, the six potential new AAC programs would join the conference no sooner than the 2023-24 season. In addition, if the AAC doesn’t agree to a waiver of its requirement for 27 months’ notice for exiting programs, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF would remain in the conference through the 2023-24 season.

Conference USA rules call for a departure fee of around $3 million per school, according to Yahoo Sports.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2021; Boise, Idaho, USA; Boise State Broncos wide receiver Stefan Cobbs (5) returns a punt for a touchdown during the first half against the UTEP Miners at Albertsons Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

AAC targeting Boise State, UAB, others for expansion

The American Athletic Conference has identified potential candidates, most from the Mountain West, to join the league after the announced exodus of three teams to the Big 12, CBS Sports reported Thursday.

At the top of the AAC’s wish list are Mountain West programs Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State and San Diego State, along with UAB of Conference USA.

The conference is losing Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to the Big 12. Texas and Oklahoma began the chain reaction of moves with their announcement that they will join the Southeastern Conference in 2025.

The CBS report said the AAC likely will be looking to add four teams to bring the number of members to 12, with Boise State the most coveted addition based on the strength of its football program. CBS reported last week that Boise State, as well as Memphis, also could be top targets for the Big 12 should it choose to expand to 14 teams.

The AAC also has a second tier of teams it could pursue if it is spurned by any of its preferred teams, per the report. It includes FAU and UTSA from Conference USA.

BYU, an independent in football and a Mountain West member in the other sports, is joining the Big 12 in 2023, with the AAC teams expected on board by July 1, 2024.

–Field Level Media

Aug 31, 2019; Waco, TX, USA; A view of the Baylor Bears logo and the Big 12 conference logo on an end zone pylon during the game between the Baylor Bears and the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Big 12 officially accepts BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, UCF

The Big 12 unanimously approved the addition of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF in a vote of conference presidents and chancellors on Friday.

The vote involved eight of the 10 schools currently in the conference. Texas and Oklahoma, which have been accepted to join the Southeastern Conference by July 1, 2025, did not participate.

Each school is expected to formally vote to accept the offer later Friday.

BYU already issued a statement saying it would join the Big 12 in the 2023-24 season. University president Kevin J. Worthen called Friday “a historic day for BYU Athletics — and for the entire university,” and he said joining the Big 12 will allow student-athletes “to compete at the highest level.”

Representatives from existing Big 12-member schools were quick to welcome the new schools into the fold.

“The Big 12 Conference has been among the best football leagues in the country for the past 25 years,” Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy said. “The addition of these four programs will allow us to introduce our brand of football to fans in new locations. I welcome the new conference members and look forward to competing against them while maintaining competition with our longstanding league members. We have the best of both worlds.”

While BYU is leaving the West Coast Conference — the Cougars are an independent in football — the American Athletic Conference will have three fewer members. Cincinnati, Houston and UCF are the top football schools in the conference.

Under AAC bylaws, the schools must give a 27-month notice and pay a $10 million buyout. If they are to join BYU in the conference in 2023, the schools and the league will have to negotiate.

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco issued a statement Friday that said it was logical the Big 12 would want to snap up Cincinnati, Houston and UCF and vowed the move won’t diminish his conference.

“Today’s news confirms what we have said all along regarding our status as a power conference. The irony that three of our schools are being asked to take the place of the two marquee schools which are leaving the Big 12 is not lost on us,” he said. “Our conference was targeted for exceeding expectations in a system that wasn’t designed to accommodate our success.”

He continued: “Our remaining schools are unwavering in their commitment to competing and succeeding at the highest level and we will not allow external factors to put a ceiling on our potential. We remain unified and resolute and will consider all of our options as we move The American into our second decade and beyond.”

The departure of the three schools will leave the AAC with eight full members. The Big 12 could, for a time, have 14 members if all four additions come on board before Oklahoma and Texas shift to the SEC.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2020; Orlando, Florida, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell (middle) and quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) and cornerback Ahmad Gardner (12) lead the team onto the field before the game against the UCF Knights at the Bounce House. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday’s Cincinnati-Tulsa game canceled

Cincinnati’s regular-season finale at Tulsa on Saturday was canceled due to COVID-19 cases within the Bearcats’ program.

The Bearcats (8-0, 6-0) and Golden Hurricane (6-1, 6-0) will meet on Dec. 19 in the American Athletic Conference championship game.

The site of the game will be the home stadium of the team ranked higher in the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night. Cincinnati was No. 7 and Tulsa was No. 24 in last week’s rankings.

Cincinnati hasn’t played since a 36-33 win at UCF on Nov. 21. The Bearcats’ Nov. 28 game at Temple was canceled due to coronavirus concerns at both schools.

“Since returning from Orlando on Nov. 21, 2020, we had an increased number of positives among our student-athletes, coaches and staff,” Cincinnati athletic director John Cunningham said in a statement released Tuesday. “Thankfully, we have had very few symptomatic cases and those who did show symptoms appear to be doing well.”

Anticipating his school will host the AAC title game, Cunningham said Cincinnati had requested a variance from the state of Ohio to allow a limited number of fans in the stadium.

–Field Level Media