Sports analyst Callie Hummel summarizes the changes to Tulsa’s conference and the factors that were at play in the decision.
In early October, talk began that the American Athletic Conference (AAC) was looking into taking six new schools from Conference-USA. In light of this news, a representative from Conference-USA attempted to contact the AAC to propose a better idea. Instead of Conference-USA slowly diminishing as the AAC poached their teams, conferences should be made dependent on location. This change would decrease travel time for teams, but most importantly, expenses during a time where money is tighter than usual.
Still, on Oct. 21, the AAC announced the official entrance of six new schools into their conference. There is currently no exact entrance date for the new teams, but the AAC regulations allude to July 2024. The six new teams-—Florida Atlantic University, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, University of North Texas, University of Texas at San Antonio, Rice University and University of Alabama at Birmingham—are all previous members of Conference-USA.
These schools are hoping for an earlier entrance date, but that would mean having to pay the exit fee from their own conference. A few teams have announced they hope to play in the 2023 season with the AAC, but this would mean paying Conference-USA’s $3 million exit fee, so it is unclear whether or not the teams will pay this to play earlier.
The AAC started looking for new teams initially because of the exit of three of their teams to the Big 12., Houston, Cincinnati and University of Central Florida all announced in September that they would be joining the Big 12 conference in 2024 at the earliest.
There are nine continuing members in the AAC—Tulsa, East Carolina, Memphis, Navy (football only), South Florida, SMU, Temple, Tulane and Wichita State (basketball only)—increasing the number of teams to 14 in football and basketball. When the new teams enter the conference, it will mean that 12 of the future AAC schools will be former Conference-USA teams. The AAC, including the new schools, has taken 13 schools from Conference-USA in less than a decade.
Many fans of Memphis, who have been in the AAC, as well as University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB), are more ecstatic than other teams with the new additions to the conference. Memphis and UAB were longtime rivals in the Conference-USA until Memphis left for the AAC. In light of this rivalry, and Memphis and Birmingham being two of the best United States’ cities for barbecue, the teams started playing every year for a 100-pound trophy that was sculpted into a rack of golden ribs in a game titled “Battle of the Bones.” The rivalry would also continue outside of the stadium, where groups from Memphis and Birmingham would compete during the tailgates to see who had the best ribs.
When Memphis moved to join the AAC in 2012, the Battle of the Bones series was led by UAB 4-3. The two teams have not played again since. With both teams in the same conference now, their fans are eager to start the competition again.