With UCONN leaving the American for “bigger” and “better” things in the Big East, a huge weight is lifted off the conference in football. While it’s already been reported that the AAC is not looking for a replacement in basketball, football remains open to exploring new options. Adding new schools in conference realignment can always be tricky, but here are some teams that could potentially join the American for football.
The Black Knights might be one of the easiest teams to get into the conference as they currently an independent for football, but why should they give that up? Right now, they’re currently listed in multiple preseason Top 25’s and seem to be flourishing on the field while Navy, a current member of the American, has seen their wins plummet in recent years.
School wise, adding a service academy is always a plus for the conference, but what should the AAC do about the Army-Navy game? The game is one of college football’s greatest tradition’s and moving it from its primed Saturday spot in December would outrage thousands of people, but the American could put both schools in separate divisions and if they do both come out on top, make the winner the conference champion. Either way, it’s still messy, but adding Army would be a huge boost for the conference appeal.
When it comes to conference expansion, the Cougars always seem to be in the middle of it, whether it was the old Big East, the Big 12, or the AAC. From a football stance, BYU seems to be a great fit into any conference as they have produced great records while still playing a competitive schedule as an independent. But from a conference footprint stance, the Cougars are just too far away to even make a strong argument for their bid into the American. While they would bring a big market from the state of Utah, convincing conference opponents to travel hundreds and hundreds of miles just for a game would not be worth it.
Along with BYU, Boise State has produced on the field, but travel also seems to be an issue. While Boise State could make the move to the AAC for football, they’d be stuck in the middle on what to do with their basketball and other programs because they are stable members of the Mountain West. On the academic side, they wouldn’t add much to the table as the American also wants to present a clean reputation for their conference. All-in-all, they would bring a competitive and stable football program, but also some baggage along the way.
This is an intriguing option for the AAC to ponder as the Panthers haven’t produced on the field since they joined the FBS in 2010, but there is a large market in the Atlanta network, somewhere that the American would love to have their footprint in. Would it be worth it just to invite a team for its market? Probably not. As streaming services are the way of the future, television markets are slowly declining, and most residents of the Atlanta area are Georgia or Georgia Tech fans, and not to mention that it is a city with multiple professional sports teams. While the money is tempting, it just does not seem to be a correct fit with the conference.
Staying at 11 teams
This might be the most simple answer to a question that provides many options. While it’s not the sexiest choice, it doesn’t put pressure on the American as they got rid of the worst team in college football and don’t want to go get a team 10 spots better just to fill the void. While the schedule would have to be revised and conference divisions would be broken, it allows the American to keep building on their own brand without having to worry about a new team. The AAC keeps growing, and in order to do that, they need to stay smaller.