Earlier this week it was reported that the AAC was looking to expand using 3-5 programs from the Big 12 in wake of the new SEC expansion. Now Big 12 commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, claims that the American Athletic Conference wants to claim the remaining 8 teams in the Big 12, after Texas and Oklahoma were officially initiated in the SEC effective in July 2025 at the latest.
Making the merger between these two conferences makes sense. With the name “American” this conference does not mind its teams traveling across the country. In the east the conference is as south as UCF (Orlando), and as far north as Temple (Philadelphia). In the southwest corner of the conference sits SMU, which is located in Dallas, and the University of Houston. If you add the 8 remaining teams to the Big 12 with the 11 currently in the AAC, you will have 19 programs and will need 1 more to make an even 20 to set up the conference into “pods”. It is important to note that during basketball season Wichita State is included in the AAC while Navy competes in the Patriot League. If the merger is successful the divisional “pods” for football should be as follows.
Texas/Southwest Division: Texas Tech, TCU, SMU, Baylor, Houston
Midwest: Oklahoma State, Tulsa, Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State
Southeast: Memphis, ECU, UCF. USF, Tulane
North: Cincinnati, WVU, Temple, Navy
Since there are 19 programs included in this merger the North division still needs another team. This could be solved in a few ways. The best option is to try and get Appalachain State from the Sun Belt. Put the Mountaineers in the South East Division, and send ECU to the North. There is also the possibility of Army joining the conference. They would work since they will be sharing a division with the Midshipmen. The Marshall Thundering Herd would be a natural fit as well but with West Virginia being a premier program, I doubt it takes place. The AAC wants West Virginia to be satisfied so they don’t try to move to the Atlantic Coast Conference. West Virginia benefits from being the only major college power in the state. A Marshall addition can only hurt WVU in recruiting. The final program that would have been the best fit is UConn. Since their departure last year, the chances of them rejoining are slim. UConn’s football program is failing and their administration looks at it as a “lost cause”. They want to do what is best for their basketball programs, and that means staying in the Big East. In the meantime, the football program can fend for itself as an independent.
The Big 12/AAC merger will not fill the void left by “blue bloods” Texas and Oklahoma. It can give the remaining Big 12 programs a home, and propel former “group of 5” teams giving them more respect. AAC programs such as UCF, Cincinnati, and Memphis will be given a legitimate chance to get into the College Football Playoff. Something they were never given in the past, as we saw UCF go 13-0 and be left out of a chance to play for a national championship. The AAC can not replace the storied history of the Longhorns and Sooners. It can however save the remainder of the Big 12 and give the AAC schools a place at the table.