American approves Wichita State expansion

13 April 2017
Matt Rechtien, Sports Editor

The American has decided to expand the size of the conference once more, bringing Missouri Valley Conference member Wichita State into the fold.

After a unanimous vote by the American Athletic Conference Board of directors, the presidents and chancellors of the member schools, Wichita State (Shockers) was extended an offer to join the American Conference — which they accepted — starting in the fall of 2017. Wichita State will join as a non-football member bringing a total of 15 men’s and women’s sports teams into the conference.

Wichita State is no stranger to Tulsa. The schools were rivals for 51 years in the Missouri Valley Conference before Tulsa left, and they have continued to play each other in various sports throughout the last twenty years.

The addition of Wichita State will increase the profile of the American Conference after Louisville and Rutgers left for the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big Ten respectively.

“We are pleased and proud to welcome Wichita State to The American,” American Commissioner Mike Aresco announced on Friday. “This is a University with a strong athletic and academic heritage which shares our Conference’s commitment to excellence, and we look forward to having them as a member. The University has an exceptionally strong tradition of success in men’s basketball and baseball. The addition of Wichita State in basketball and Olympic sports extends our Conference’s national footprint, enhances our national profile and strengthens our position as a leader in intercollegiate activities.”

Wichita State will bring in 15 total sports — baseball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, men’s cross country, women’s cross country, men’s golf, women’s golf, softball, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, men’s indoor track and field, women’s indoor track and field, men’s outdoor track and field, women’s outdoor track and field and volleyball.

Wichita State is nationally known for their men’s basketball program. They have won 11 regular-season championships and four tournament crowns. Under their current Head Coach Gregg Marshall, the Shockers have won nearly 75 percent of their games. In the last five seasons Wichita State has won at least one NCAA tournament game, won 10 total NCAA tournament games and made a Final Four appearance. Any road game in Wichita will be a tough contest as the Shockers have won 59 of 60 at Koch arena in the last four years and have gone 197 consecutive games with crowds of over 10,000.

Tulsa VP & Director of Athletics Derrick Gragg discussed the move in a press conference on Friday.

“The addition of Wichita State to The American Athletic Conference will enhance our league’s national brand especially in the sport of basketball. It not only reinforces the league’s position as one of the top basketball conferences in the country, but it also impacts favorably a number of other sports. Geographically, for the University of Tulsa, this move makes perfect sense as many of our teams already compete against the Shockers.”

The Shockers forfeit all the NCAA men’s basketball tournament units revenue because they are leaving without giving 24-month notice. There is a $2.5 million cost to join The American Athletic Conference but they will instead have their share of league revenue (projected at $500,000 a year) withheld for five years in order to cover their entrance fee.

As of right now The American does not plan on changing their 18-game conference schedule for basketball, but there will have to be accomodations to account for the addition of 12th team.

“Wichita State is a tremendous addition to the American Athletic Conference,” men’s basketball Head Coach Frank Haith said after the announcement. “We have consistently been one of the top basketball leagues in the country and adding a perennial NCAA Tournament program like Wichita State as our 12th member just reinforces our standing among the nation’s elite. I am excited to welcome Coach Marshall and Wichita State to the family. We have great respect and a long-standing rivalry with the Shockers that will continue to flourish as part of The American.”

Starting on July 1, the Conference will consist of the University of Central Florida, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Connecticut, East Carolina University, the University of Houston, the University of Memphis, Southern Methodist University, the University of South Florida, Temple University, Tulane University, the University of Tulsa, the US Naval Academy and Wichita State University.