American Athletic Conference

american athletic conference

The American Athletic Conference (ACC) has a dramatic and decorated history. It is one of the NCAA’s largest and most successful conferences, having helped nurture exciting new talent and produce thrilling college sports content in football and basketball in particular.

History of The AAC

The American Athletic Conference was founded as the successor to the Big East Conference. The Big East Conference fell apart as an all-sports league in 2013 after struggling to obtain partnerships and TV deals, as well as find its identity as an organization being torn between basketball and football. 

Football-focused schools in the conference, namely the University of Cincinnati, the University of Connecticut (UConn), Temple University, the University of South Florida (USF), the University of Louisville, and Rutgers University, decided to break from the Big East to form their own conference, leading other major schools to do the same. The six schools that left the Big East would soon be joined by the University of Houston, the University of Memphis, Southern Methodist University (SMU), and the University of Central Florida (UCF) to form the AAC’s ten original teams. 

The Big East would become a basketball-focused conference, while the football schools who had left would rebrand as the AAC, keeping in place much of the Big East’s structure under new commissioner Mike Aresco. 

The AAC went on to remove divisions for football following UConn’s departure from the conference in 2020. They also announced that Florida Atlantic University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of North Texas, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Rice University would all join the conference in the near future. This was in part to compensate for the departures of the University of Central Florida, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Houston leaving in the not-so-distant future.

What schools are in the AAC?

The American Athletic Conference is currently one of the largest and most successful leagues in the NCAA, as well as a member of the Group of 5. Since the conference’s creation, AAC teams have won four NCAA championships, six New Year’s Bowl titles, and 13 NCAA individual championships. With its renewed partnership with ESPN as of 2019, it is also one of the most televised and promoted NCAA conferences.

Many, but not all, of the original ten members have remained, with Rutgers and Louisville departing shortly after its creation. Its numbers have grown to 12 full-time members with five affiliates, with even more growth anticipated with the addition of six new teams as soon as 2023. 

Today’s American Athletic Conference finds its full-time members from schools in the South, Midwest, Northeast, and the US Naval Academy. The Naval Academy plays for the AAC in football only, with Wichita State, a non-football school, also joining in 2017 to supplement their addition. Current Northeast school’s that play in the AAC include UConn and Temple University. From the Midwest, it has Cincinnati, the University of Tulsa, and Wichita State University. A majority of the AAC’s teams come from the South, including East Carolina University, Memphis, UCF, Houston, USF, SMU, and Tulane University.

List of AAC Teams

Full-Member Programs:

  • East Carolina University (ECU Pirates)
  • Southern Methodist University (SMU Mustangs)
  • Temple University (Temple Owls)
  • Tulane University (Tulane Green Wave)
  • University of Central Florida (UCF Knights)
  • University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati Bearcats)
  • University of Houston (Houston Cougars)
  • University of Memphis (Memphis Tigers)
  • University of South Florida (USF Bulls)
  • University of Tulsa (Tulsa Golden Hurricane)
  • Wichita State University (Wichita State Shockers - non-football member)

Affiliate Members:

  • US Naval Academy (football)
  • University of Florida (women’s lacrosse)
  • Vanderbilt University (women’s lacrosse)
  • Old Dominion University (women’s lacrosse and women’s rowing)
  • California State University, Sacramento (women’s rowing)

New-Member Schools (Expected 2023)

  • Florida Atlantic University (FAU Owls)
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB Blazers)
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte 49ers)
  • University of North Texas (North Texas Mean Green)
  • University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA Roadrunners)
  • Rice University (Rice Owls)


What is the AAC?

The American Athletic Conference (AAC), also called the American, is a Division I-A member of the NCAA league, as well as a member of the Group of 5. It was created after football-playing schools left the Big East Conference in 2013. Today it is one of the largest and most successful conferences in organized college sports, with 11 prestigious schools as their full-time members and five affiliated members.  

How many teams are in the AAC?

The AAC began with the 11 traditional members of the former Big East Conference, but it currently has 11 current full-time members and five affiliate members. By the 2023 or 2024 season, the league is set to introduce six new teams, making it one of the largest conferences in the NCAA. However, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF will all be leaving to join the Big 12 in 2023, bringing the AAC’s expected total to 15.

Why is it called the AAC?

The American Athletic Conference, sometimes called the American, is a rebranded version of the former Big East Conference, which was named in 2013. American was chosen for the name for its aspirational and strong connotation, as well as its inclusiveness for teams across all parts of the country as opposed to the east only. The conference itself prefers to go by the American rather than the AAC in order to easily distinguish it from the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference).