Rice Athletics has been officially accepted into the American Athletic Conference, marking the end of their time in Conference USA.
Word broke on Monday afternoon that Rice Athletics might have a new home. Roughly 72 hours later, it’s official. Rice has been accepted as a new member by the American Athletic Conference.
Six schools (Rice, UAB, UTSA, North Texas, FAU, and Charlotte) submitted their applications to the AAC on Tuesday evening, paperwork was exchanged on Wednesday. Then AAC Board of Directors met and formally extended the invitations on Thursday. Upon the official sign off this morning, Rice Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard released this statement:
“We have been working diligently to position Rice as an attractive candidate when the next round of conference realignment began. Today’s invitation to join the American Athletic Conference confirms our approach and aligns with our aspirations to offer an unparalleled experience for our students. The commitment to athletics by our university administration has been crucial for our efforts to move forward, and we’re grateful for their close partnership. We have strong alignment as we embark on the next chapter in the history of Rice Athletics.”
Ultimately, the timing of the move will at least partially be dependent on the dominoes that came before. Texas and Oklahoma will have to reach some sort of agreement with the Big 12 to move to the SEC sooner than 2025. Then the four new additions to the Big 12 would “free up” space in the AAC allowing these new six schools to slot in. The 2023 season has been thrown around as a possibility. It’s a bit messy, but the important part for the Owls is this: they’re in.
As previously reported, the Owls’ newfound conference will include these 14 teams, with two divisions most likely position as follows:
West: Rice, SMU, Tulsa, Tulane, Navy, North Texas, UTSA
East: USF, FAU, Temple, Memphis, UAB, Charlotte, ECU
Other than Navy, currently part of the AAC West because of a longstanding desire to have connections to Texas, the Owls’ furthest road trip would be to Tulsa, an eight-hour drive or an hour and a half flight. For reference, it’s an 11-hour drive from Houston to El Paso and a three-hour flight from Houston to Norfolk, Virginia, sites of current Conference USA opponents.
Regionally, this move is a no-brainer. Financially, Rice stands to more than double its television revenues, with the potential to drastically outpace its current numbers pending further renegotiations down the line. Altogether, this is a banner day for Rice Athletics.