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American Athletic Conference

College sports conference in the U.S.

Top 10 American Athletic Conference related articles

American Athletic Conference
The American
EstablishedJuly 1, 2013; 7 years ago (2013-07-01)[note 1]
DivisionDivision I
Members11 (full) + 6 (associate)
Sports fielded
  • 22
    • men's: 10
    • women's: 12
Former namesBig East (1979–2013)[note 2]
HeadquartersIrving, Texas
CommissionerMichael Aresco (since 2012)

The American Athletic Conference (The American or AAC) is an American collegiate athletic conference, featuring 11 member universities and six associate member universities that compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) Division I, with its football teams competing in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Member universities represent a range of private and public universities of various enrollment sizes located primarily in urban metropolitan areas in the Northeastern, Midwestern, and Southern regions of the United States.[1][2]

The American's legal predecessor, the original Big East Conference, was considered one of the six collegiate power conferences of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) era in college football, and The American inherited that status in the BCS's final season.[3] With the advent of the College Football Playoff in 2014, The American became a "Group of Five" conference, which shares one automatic spot in the New Year's Six bowl games.[note 3][4]

The league is the product of substantial turmoil in the old Big East during the 2010–14 conference realignment period. It is one of two conferences to emerge from the all-sports Big East in 2013. While the other successor, which does not sponsor football, purchased the Big East Conference name, The American inherited the old Big East's structure and is that conference's legal successor. However, both conferences claim 1979 as their founding date, and the same history up to 2013.[5][6] The American is headquartered in Irving, Texas, and led by Commissioner Michael Aresco.[2][7]

American Athletic Conference Intro articles: 13


The Big East

The Big East Conference was founded in 1979 as a basketball conference and included the colleges of Providence, St. John's, Georgetown, and Syracuse, which in turn invited Connecticut (UConn), Holy Cross, Rutgers, and Boston College to be members.[8][9] UConn and Boston College would accept the invitation, while Holy Cross soon thereafter declined the invitation, and Rutgers eventually declined and remained in the Atlantic 10 Conference (then known as the Eastern 8 Conference). Seton Hall was then invited as a replacement and the conference started play with seven members.[9]

Villanova and Pittsburgh joined shortly thereafter under the leadership of the first Big East commissioner, Dave Gavitt.[10][11][12]

The conference remained largely unchanged until 1991, when it began to sponsor football, adding Miami as a full member, and Rutgers, Temple, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia as football-only members.[13] Rutgers and West Virginia were offered full all-sports membership in 1995, while Virginia Tech waited until 2000 for the same offer. Temple football was kicked out after the 2004 season, but rejoined in 2012 and intended to become a full member in 2013.

The unusual structure of the Big East, with the "football" and "non-football" schools, led to instability in the conference.[14] The waves of defection and replacement brought about by the conference realignments of 2005 and the early 2010s revealed tension between the football-sponsoring and non-football schools that eventually led to the split of the conference in 2013.[15]

Realignment and reorganization

– All-sports member
– Full, non-football member
– Associate member (football)
– Associate member (women's lacrosse)
– Associate member (women's rowing)
– Associate member (women's lacrosse & rowing)

The conference was reorganized following the tumultuous period of realignment that hobbled the Big East between 2010 and 2013. The Big East was one of the most severely impacted conferences during the most recent conference realignment period. In all, 14 member schools announced their departure for other conferences, and 15 other schools announced plans to join the conference (eight as all-sports members, and four for football only). Three of the latter group later backed out of their plans to join (one for all sports, and the other two for football only).

On December 15, 2012, the Big East's seven remaining non-FBS schools, all Catholic institutions consisting of DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, and Villanova announced that they voted unanimously to leave the Big East Conference effective June 30, 2015.[16][17] The "Catholic 7", by leaving, were looking for a more lucrative television deal than the one they would receive by remaining with the football schools.[18] In March 2013, representatives of the Catholic 7 announced they would leave the conference effective June 30, 2013, retaining the Big East name, $10 million, and the right to hold the conference's basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden.[3][19]

Following the announcement of the departure of the Catholic 7 universities, the remaining ten football-playing members started the process of selecting a new name for the conference and choosing a new site to hold its basketball tournament.[20][21] Various names were considered, with the "America 12" conference reportedly one of the finalists until rejected by college presidents sensitive of adding a number to the end of the conference name.[22] On April 3, 2013, the conference announced that it had chosen a new name: American Athletic Conference.[1] The conference also revealed that it prefers the nickname "The American" because it was thought "AAC" would cause too much confusion with the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).[23]

To restate and clarify a somewhat confusing series of events: on July 1, the original Big East changed its name to the American Athletic Conference, while the "Catholic 7" split off and joined Butler, Creighton, and Xavier to form a "new" Big East. While The American is reckoned as the original conference and the "new" Big East is considered a spinoff, the "new" Big East retained the rights to the original Big East logo, trademarks, and men's basketball tournament.

Louisville and Rutgers spent one season in the newly renamed conference. On July 1, 2014, Louisville joined the ACC[24] and Rutgers joined the Big Ten Conference.[25] On that same day, East Carolina, Tulane, and Tulsa joined The American for all sports, while Sacramento State and San Diego State joined as associate members for women's rowing.[26][27] Navy joined as an associate member in football on July 1, 2015.[26]

Addition of Wichita State

For the next several years, The American did not discuss the addition of any new members. However, in March 2017, media reports indicated that the conference was seriously considering adding one or more new members specifically as basketball upgrades. Wichita State, Dayton, and VCU were reportedly considered, with Wichita State being seen as the strongest candidate.[28] By the end of that month, it was reported that talks between the American and Wichita State had advanced to the point that the two sides were discussing a timeline for membership, with the possibility of the Shockers joining as a full but non-football member as early as the 2017–18 school year. The report indicated that a final decision would be made in April.[29][30][31] The conference's board of directors voted unanimously on April 7 to add Wichita State effective in July 2017, making the Shockers the league's first full non-football member since the Big East split.[32]

Departure of Connecticut

On June 21, 2019, a Boston-area sports news website, Digital Sports Desk, revealed that UConn was expected to announce by the end of the month that it would leave the American for the Big East Conference in 2020.[33] The story was picked up by multiple national media outlets the next day. The main issue that reportedly had to be resolved prior to any official announcement was the future of UConn football, as the Big East does not sponsor that sport, and sources indicated that the American had no interest in retaining UConn as a football-only member. Reportedly, American Conference insiders were not surprised by UConn's prospective move, as that school had been vigorously opposed to that league's most recently announced television deal.[34][35]

National media believed that should UConn leave the American, the conference's likeliest response would be to bring in two new schools—one for football only and a second in non-football sports, similar to the American's sequential additions of Navy and Wichita State. The most likely prospects for football-only membership were seen as Army (currently an FBS independent, with most of its other sports in the Patriot League), and Air Force (currently an all-sports member of the Mountain West Conference). Any of several schools could potentially fill the non-football slot, with Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports considering VCU to be "the most logical target there." Thamel dismissed the prospect of the American adding a new all-sports member, saying "there's no obvious candidate who could add value in both basketball and football."[34][35]

On June 24, 2019, it was reported that the Big East had formally approved an invitation for UConn to join the conference.[36] On June 26, 2019, the UConn Board of Trustees accepted the invitation and they are expected to join the league for the 2020–2021 season.[37] On July 26, media reports indicated that UConn and The American had reached a buyout agreement that confirmed UConn's Big East arrival date as July 1, 2020, paying the American a $17 million exit fee.[38]

It was widely reported that UConn was "rejoining" the Big East, given that the Huskies would be reunited with many of the schools against which it played for three decades in the original Big East. Indeed, UConn was the last charter member of the old Big East still playing in The American.

Added stability

The American took a number of steps to stabilize the conference after the departure of UConn. The first move was the addition of Old Dominion University as an associate member in women's lacrosse for the 2020–21 season. Old Dominion was previously added to The American for women's rowing beginning in the 2018–19 season.[39]

The American moved their headquarters from Providence, Rhode Island to Irving, Texas. This was a planned move, to better centralize the conference offices with the member schools. Irving is in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, which is also home to the headquarters of the Big 12 Conference, College Football Playoff, and the National Football Foundation.[40] The conference also moved the men's basketball tournament to the region, to be played at the new Dickies Arena until 2022.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, some member schools have eliminated sports due to budget constraints. The University of Cincinnati eliminated its men's soccer program[41] while East Carolina University canceled men and women's swimming and diving teams and tennis teams.[42] Women's rowing member San Diego State University dropped that sport effective with the end of the 2020–21 season.[43]


Name Term
Michael Aresco 2013–present[7]

Membership timeline

Vanderbilt CommodoresOld Dominion Monarchs and Lady MonarchsFlorida GatorsWichita State ShockersMissouri Valley ConferenceSan Diego State AztecsNavy MidshipmenTulsa Golden HurricaneConference USATulane Green WaveConference USAEast Carolina PiratesConference USAVillanova WildcatsUCF KnightsTemple OwlsSouth Florida BullsSMU MustangsBig Ten ConferenceRutgers Scarlet KnightsMemphis TigersAtlantic Coast ConferenceLouisville CardinalsHouston CougarsBig East ConferenceConnecticut HuskiesCincinnati Bearcats

Full members Full members (non-football) Assoc. members (football only) Assoc. member (Other sports) Other Conference

American Athletic Conference History articles: 67

Member universities

The conference currently has 11 full member institutions – and six associate members – in 12 states, including California, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The newest full member, Wichita State is the only one that does not sponsor football.

Current members

Institution Location Founded Joined Type Enrollment Endowment
Nickname Colors
University of Central Florida Orlando, Florida 1963 2013 Public 68,571[44] $164.7 Knights          
University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, Ohio 1819 2013 Public 45,949[45] $1,453 Bearcats          
East Carolina University Greenville, North Carolina 1907 2014 Public 28,718[46] $212.57 Pirates          
University of Houston Houston, Texas 1927 2013 Public 46,324[47] $959.8 Cougars          
University of Memphis Memphis, Tennessee 1912 2013 Public 21,458[48] $223.4 Tigers          
University of South Florida Tampa, Florida 1956 2013 Public 50,830[49] $532.2 Bulls          
Southern Methodist University Dallas, Texas 1911 2013 Private 11,649[50] $1,660 Mustangs          
Temple University Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1884 2013 Public 39,755[51] $644.1 Owls          
Tulane University New Orleans, Louisiana 1834 2014 Private 11,722[52] $1,430 Green Wave          
University of Tulsa Tulsa, Oklahoma 1894 2014 Private 3,343[53] $1,114 Golden Hurricane               
Wichita State University[note 4] Wichita, Kansas 1895 2017 Public 15,778[54] $276.14 Shockers          

Associate members

Departing associate San Diego State, which will drop women's rowing at the end of the 2020–21 season, highlighted in red.

Institution Location Founded Joined Enrollment Nickname Colors Sport Primary
University of Florida Gainesville, Florida 1853 2018 51,474 Gators           Women's lacrosse SEC
Vanderbilt University Nashville, Tennessee 1873 2018 12,686 Commodores          
United States Naval Academy Annapolis, Maryland 1845 2015 4,400 Midshipmen           Football Patriot League
Old Dominion University Norfolk, Virginia 1930 2018 (rowing)
2020 (lacrosse)
24,375 Monarchs                Women's rowing & women's lacrosse C-USA
California State University, Sacramento Sacramento, California 1947 2015 28,811 Hornets           Women's rowing Big Sky
San Diego State University San Diego, California 1897 2015 29,392 Aztecs           Women's rowing Mountain West

Former full members

Three full members have departed from the conference.

Institution Location Founded Joined Left Nickname Colors Current
Rutgers University New Brunswick, New Jersey 1766 1991[note 5] 2014 Scarlet Knights      Big Ten
University of Louisville Louisville, Kentucky 1798 2005 Cardinals           ACC
University of Connecticut Storrs, Connecticut 1881 1979 2020 Huskies           Big East

Former associate members

One associate member has left the conference.

Institution Location Founded Joined Left Nickname Colors Sport Primary
Conference in
Former AAC Sport
Villanova University Villanova, Pennsylvania 1842 2013 2015 Wildcats           Women's rowing Big East CAA

American Athletic Conference Member universities articles: 45


The American currently sponsors championship competition in 10 men's and 12 women's NCAA sanctioned sports. Old Dominion, Sacramento State and San Diego State are associate members for women's rowing,[55] though San Diego State will drop the sport at the end of the 2020–21 school year.[43] The newest conference sport of women's lacrosse, added for the 2018–19 school year, has six participating schools. As of the current 2021 college lacrosse season, three full American members participate along with associate members Florida, Old Dominion, and Vanderbilt. Florida and Vanderbilt are American members only in that sport, while Old Dominion added women's lacrosse to its previously existing women's rowing membership in 2020.[56][57]

Under NCAA rules reflecting the large number of male scholarship participants in football and attempting to address gender equity concerns (see also Title IX), each member institution is required to provide more women's varsity sports than men's.[note 6]

Sport Men's Women's
Cross Country
Swimming & Diving
Track and Field (Indoor)
Track and Field (Outdoor)

Men's sponsored sports by school

School Baseball Basketball Cross
Football Golf Soccer Swimming
& Diving
Tennis Track & Field
Track & Field
Cincinnati Y Y Y Y Y N Y N Y Y 8
East Carolina Y Y Y Y Y N N N Y Y 7
Houston Y Y Y Y Y N N N Y Y 7
Memphis Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y 9
South Florida Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y 9
Temple N Y Y Y Y Y N Y N N 6
Tulane Y Y Y Y N N N Y N Y 6
Tulsa N Y Y Y N Y N Y Y Y 7
Wichita State Y Y Y N Y N N Y Y Y 7
Associate Member
Navy[note 7] N N N Y N N N N N N 1
Totals 8 11 9 11 10 6 2 8 8 8 82

Men's varsity sports not sponsored by The American which are played by conference schools:

School Rifle[note 8] Rowing[note 9]
Memphis GARC N
Temple N Independent

Women's sponsored sports by school

School Basketball Cross
Golf Lacrosse Rowing Soccer Softball Swimming
& Diving
Tennis Track & Field
Track & Field
Volleyball Total
Cincinnati Y Y Y Y N Y N Y Y Y Y Y 10
East Carolina Y Y Y Y N Y Y N N Y Y Y 9
Houston Y Y Y N N Y Y Y Y Y Y Y 10
Memphis Y Y Y N N Y Y N Y Y Y Y 9
South Florida Y Y Y N N Y Y N Y Y Y Y 9
SMU Y Y Y N Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y 10
Temple Y Y N Y Y Y N N Y Y Y Y 9
Tulane Y Y Y N N N N Y Y Y Y Y 8
Tulsa Y Y Y N Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y 10
UCF Y Y Y N Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y 10
Wichita State Y Y Y N N N Y N Y Y Y Y 8
Associate Members
Florida N N N Y N N N N N N N N 1
Old Dominion N N N Y Y N N N N N N N 2
Sacramento State N N N N Y N N N N N N N 1
San Diego State N N N N Y N N N N N N N 1
Vanderbilt N N N Y N N N N N N N N 1
Totals 11 11 10 6 7 9 7 4 10 11 11 11 107

Women's varsity sports not sponsored by The American which are played by conference schools:

School Beach
Bowling Fencing Field Hockey Equestrian Gymnastics Rifle[note 8] Sailing
Memphis GARC
South Florida SAISA
SMU Independent
Temple NIWFA Big East Independent
Tulane Independent Southland

American Athletic Conference Sports articles: 25

Conference champions

School Number of Conference Championships Championships by sport
Houston 31 Baseball: 4 (2 regular season, 2 tournament)

Men's Basketball: 3 (2 regular season, 1 tournament)

Football: 1

Women's Golf: 3

Women's Swimming & Diving: 5

Men's Track & Field: 11 (6 indoor, 5 outdoor)

Women's Track & Field: 3 (2 indoor, 1 outdoor)

Volleyball: 1 (1 regular season, 0 tournament)

Central Florida 27 Baseball: 1 (1 regular season, 0 tournament)

Football: 4

Women's Golf: 2

Women's Rowing: 5

Men's Soccer: 2 (2 regular season, 0 tournament)

Women's Soccer: 3 (2 regular season, 1 tournament)

Softball: 3 (2 regular season, 1 tournament)

Women's Tennis: 1

Women's Track & Field: 1 (1 indoor, 0 outdoor)

Volleyball: 5 (2 regular season, 3 tournament)

South Florida 23 Women's Basketball: 2 (1 regular season, 1 tournament)

Men's Golf: 4 Men's Soccer: 2 (1 regular season, 1 tournament)

Women's Soccer: 5 (3 regular season, 2 tournament)

Softball: 3 (3 regular season, 0 tournament)

Men's Tennis: 5

Women's Tennis: 2

Tulsa 22 Men's Basketball: 1 (1 regular season, 0 tournament)

Men's Cross Country: 7

Women's Cross Country: 4

Men's Soccer: 3 (0 regular season, 3 tournament)

Softball: 4 (1 regular season, 3 tournament)

Women's Tennis: 3

SMU 21 Men's Basketball: 4 (2 regular season, 2 tournament)

Women's Cross Country: 2

Men's Golf: 1

Men's Soccer: 5 (2 regular season, 3 tournament)

Women's Soccer: 1 (1 regular season, 0 tournament)

Men's Swimming & Diving: 1

Women's Swimming & Diving: 2

Women's Track & Field: 3 (1 indoor, 2 outdoor)

Volleyball: 2 (2 regular season, 0 tournament)

Cincinnati 15 Baseball: 1 (0 regular season, 1 tournament)

Men's Basketball: 5 (3 regular season, 2 tournament)

Football: 2

Women's Soccer: 1 (0 regular season, 1 tournament)

Men's Swimming & Diving: 2

Women's Track & Field: 3 (1 indoor, 2 outdoor)

Volleyball: 1 (1 regular season, 0 tournament)

East Carolina 7 Baseball: 3 (1 regular season, 2 tournament)

Men's Swimming & Diving: 4

Memphis 5 Football: 2

Men's Golf: 1

Women's Soccer: 2 (1 regular season, 1 tournament)

Wichita State 4 Men's Basketball: 1 (1 regular season, 0 tournament)

Women's Cross Country: 1

Women's Track & Field: 1 (0 indoor, 1 outdoor)

Volleyball: 1 (1 regular season, 0 tournament)

Temple 2 Men's Basketball: 1 (1 regular season, 0 tournament)

Football: 1

Tulane 2 Baseball: 1 (1 regular season, 0 tournament)

Men's Tennis: 1


NCAA team championships


Excluded from this list are all national championships earned outside the scope of NCAA competition, including Division I FBS football titles, Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association titles, women's AIAW titles, National Collegiate Equestrian Association titles, and retroactive Helms Athletic Foundation titles.

School Total Men Women Co-ed Nickname Most successful sport (Titles)
University of Houston 17 17 0 0 Cougars Men's golf (16)
Southern Methodist University 4 4 0 0 Mustangs Men's outdoor track & field (2)
Temple University 3 1 2 0 Owls Women's lacrosse (2)
University of Cincinnati 2 2 0 0 Bearcats Men's basketball (2)
University of South Florida 1 0 1 0 Bulls Women's swimming (1)
Tulane University 1 1 0 0 Green Wave Men's tennis (1)
University of Tulsa 1 0 1 0 Golden Hurricane Women's golf (1)
Wichita State University 1 1 0 0 Shockers Baseball (1)
University of Central Florida 0 0 0 0 Knights n/a
University of Memphis 0 0 0 0 Tigers n/a
East Carolina University 0 0 0 0 Pirates n/a
Total 30 26 4 0

See also: List of NCAA schools with the most NCAA Division I championships, List of NCAA schools with the most Division I national championships, and NCAA Division I FBS Conferences

American Athletic Conference NCAA team championships articles: 10