The American Athletic Conference announced Thursday it has accepted six new member schools: UAB, Florida Atlantic, Charlotte, North Texas, Rice and UTSA.
The conference did not confirm when the institutions will leave Conference USA and formally join the nine programs already in the AAC.
Commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement:
"I am extremely pleased to welcome these six outstanding universities to the American Athletic Conference. 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 realignment dominoes began falling in July when the SEC confirmed it will add Oklahoma and Texas on July 1, 2025, at the latest.
That left the Big 12 in need of a countermove lest it lose ground to its Power Five rivals. The conference snagged BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston to fill out its ranks, which dealt a major blow to the AAC since the latter three were member schools.
The next dominoes to fall could be in Conference USA. The AAC's move could be its death knell because its membership has been nearly halved, so other conferences may smell blood in the water.
Matt Norlander @MattNorlander
Well, there it is. <br><br>Conference USA officially loses six of its members. It's not exactly high-major realignment, but nevertheless: pilfering nearly half of a league's inventory amounts to one of the more devastating sideswipes in realignment history. <a href="https://t.co/24BmOsH9T0">https://t.co/24BmOsH9T0</a>
Laine Higgins @lainehiggins17
Remaining 8 C-USA members: Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, Southern Miss, U Texas - El Paso, Western Kentucky<br><br>This leaves C-USA depleted and at risk of being poached further from the Sun Belt or Mid-American Conferences.
For the six C-USA defectors, money talks.
Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel reported that Conference USA schools were collecting less than $1 million in annual television revenue. By going to the AAC, that money will at least double and "rise significantly from there," per Thamel.
UCF, Cincinnati and Houston are set to leave the AAC on July 1, 2024, and each pay a $10 million buyout fee. Aresco told ESPN's Heather Dinich in September the timeline could be accelerated pending negotiations about the buyout.
An expedited exit might pave the way for UAB, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice and UTSA to make their AAC arrivals earlier than expected.
That may benefit Conference USA too since Thamel reported each school has to pay an exit fee of around $3 million.