American Athletic Conference Expansion: Charlotte, FAU, Rice, UAB, UNT, UTSA. 10 Quick Thoughts

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

American Athletic Conference Expansion: Charlotte, FAU, Rice, UAB, UNT, UTSA. 10 Quick Thoughts

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American Athletic Conference Expansion: Charlotte, FAU, Rice, UAB, UNT, UTSA. 10 Quick Thoughts

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College Football Daily Cavalcade: The American Athletic Conference has expanded by adding Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, UTSA, and UAB. What does it all mean? What’s next?


College Football Daily Cavalcade: American Athletic Conference Expansion

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Sorry if this take sucks, it’s not my fault …

It had a dream to get bigger with a slew of Big 12 takes, but it ended up expanding with thoughts on Conference USA.

Not that it applies to other areas of our world or anything, but sometimes, you take the win and move forward.

The American Athletic Conference expanded with UAB, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, and UTSA. What does it all mean? Here are 10 quick thoughts on the big move.

1. So now with these six, the American Athletic Conference, at least for football, will look like this when it all starts once they’re in – a specific date hasn’t been finalized.

Assume the league goes back to two divisions looking something like this …

East: Charlotte, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Navy, Temple, UAB, USF

West: Memphis, North Texas, Rice, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa, UTSA

2. Beyond everything else, it’s a happy day – at least for everyone other than Conference USA.

It’s a good business move for the American Athletic Conference in a take-the-win sort of way, and for the schools, this is massive.

It’s a step up from C-USA for Rice and North Texas, and it’s a giant validation for the other four schools.

3. Remember, UAB football was in a self-induced coma in 2015 and 2016.

It’s a minor miracle that it still has a program, much less it getting to have a moment like this.

Florida Atlantic football started from scratch under the late Howard Schnellenberger and joined the FCS world back in 2004, UTSA has only been in the FCS since 2012, and Charlotte is still new to football, becoming a major college program in 2015. Now they’re all in the American Athletic Conference.

4. It might have been a necessary business move for the American Athletic Conference, but it’s a gigantic step back to what was potentially on the table a few months ago. No program-shaming here, but UAB, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, and UTSA doesn’t move the national needle even a little bit.

5. There’s no replacing new Big 12 members Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF.

Think of expansion as Moneyball – the American Athletic Conference couldn’t replace Damon and Giambi. It has to hope that the six newly-added schools can add up to overcome some of the revenue hit. It won’t, but it’s a needed move to strengthen the league’s membership. But …

6. Things are a whole lot different than they were a few months ago.

When the Big 12 appeared to be mortally wounded with Texas and Oklahoma leaving for the SEC, there was a real thought that the American Athletic Conference would go get Big 12 schools, not the other way around.

The AAC went from – at least in the sports media sewing circle – possibly pulling in West Virginia and maybe Iowa State and Oklahoma State to losing three of its biggest schools and adding five from Conference USA.

7. Again, not to dog the six programs coming in, but this cements the Mountain West as the sixth best conference in college football – at least until the Pac-12 wakes up.

The AAC landing Florida Atlantic gives USF a natural rival, and the state of Texas becomes more emphasized, but these six aren’t going to entice the big schools from the Mountain West to possibly flip leagues.

The AAC landing Big 12 schools wasn’t realistically going to work, but chatting up San Diego State – with the Pac-12 not claiming to be interested in expanding right now – and Boise State, and some of the others from the Mountain West in an attempt to become a giant national conference wasn’t crazy.

The six schools the AAC just landed don’t up the brand enough for the Mountain West schools to be interested.

8. Don’t assume this is slowing down.

At some point, the Big 12 will realize that going after USF – Tampa, rivalry with UCF, massive enrollment – makes a whole lot of sense, and the AAC hanging on to Memphis is a mild upset.

Conference USA still has a few attractive schools – most notably Marshall and Southern Miss. The American Athletic Conference might keep moving here, and going after FIU – to have three schools in Florida – might make sense.

9. So now what for Conference USA?

It just lost five of its 12 members, and others wanted to go, too – UTEP isn’t all that happy right now. That leaves FIU, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, Southern Miss, UTEP, and WKU.

Raiding the Sun Belt would be an instant reaction, but the easier move might be to entice a few of the independents to join in. Adding Army, UConn and UMass would at least give the conference some bulk, but the big get – even with a whole slew of issues – would be Liberty. However, the Sun Belt is about to go hard after all the independents, too. And …

10. Get ready for some schools from the FCS world to start becoming factors.

James Madison, North Dakota State, and Sam Houston State are among several schools on the verge of stepping up. There’s nowhere else for the Sun Belt and Conference USA to go, so we might see as many as ten new schools in the FBS world in the near future.

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