On Thursday, October 21, school officials for the University of North Texas announced they accepted an invitation to join the American Athletic Conference. The invitation was part of a six-school expansion, which gives the league 14 teams for most of their sports.
According to the Denton Record-Chronicle, the six new additions are currently members of Conference USA.
In addition to the University of North Texas, the expansion includes the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Florida Atlantic University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Rice University, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
During UNT’s press conference, President Neal Smatresk said, “This move means so much for the university, not just in terms of moving into a conference that is clearly prestigious, but also in terms of the reputation it will help create for us on a national level. You think about the television exposure and the media attention we will gain.”
Smatresk said the move showcases growth happening in academic areas on campus as well.
“What I’ll tell you is that this move reflects what’s happening on the academic side of the university,” he added. “We are a growing university that is the fourth largest in the state. Our programs are expanding, our research is booming, and athletics is helping us lead the charge to becoming a nationally prominent major university.”
The American Athletic Conference is considered to be higher-level than Conference USA, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.
The conference also includes Temple University, University of Tulsa, University of South Florida, United States Naval Academy, Southern Methodist University, University of Memphis, East Carolina University, and Tulane University.
Denton Record-Chronicle stated that this move is one UNT has hoped for to elevate its status. The school’s rival SMU is also part of the league.
UNT Athletic Director Wren Baker also spoke during the conference to say, “It’s not that our growth potential would have been stymied had we not got this opportunity, but this certainly lifts that ceiling even higher. We’ll have a chance to continue to recruit better and to retain student-athletes and coaches and staff.”
Baker added, “When we have those achievements that we’ve had, whether its Hope Trautwein’s perfect game, a bracket-busting win in the NCAA tournament or a fake fair catch play that goes for a touchdown against an SEC team, those will be spotlighted on a bigger and brighter stage because of the television opportunities with the American.”
The American Athletic Conference has not announced when the new members will officially become part of the league. According to the Denton Record-Chronicle, it could happen in the 2023-24 school year.
Mike Aresco, the conference commissioner, said the league had planned the expansion to include between two and six schools.
He said, “As that process played out, it became clear that we had a great opportunity to shape the long-term future by adding schools that not only share our philosophy of competing at the highest level but also showed that they’re willing to make the necessary investments to do so.”