BREAKING: Per a report by Yahoo!’s Pete Thamel, Rice football is expected to join the American Athletic Conference.
After flying almost entirely under the radar during the most recent round of realignment, Rice football and all Rice Athletics programs have found themselves in the spotlight. Per a report by Yahoo!’s Pete Thamel, the Owls are one six programs expect to apply to the American Athletic Conference, which is expected to accept all six applications.
Here’s Thamel’s report in its entirety:
“Sources: The American Athletic Conference is expected examine expansion this week, with six schools expected to send applications. The AAC is expected to receive an application from – FAU, Charlotte, North Texas, UTSA, Rice and UAB this week. The expectation is that they will be accepted and the AAC will grow to a 14-team football league. (Also 14 teams in hoops.)”
There might be smoke to this fire. The Athletic’s Chris Vannini echoed the report soon after, adding some additional color as well:
“Source confirms to The Athletic that the American Athletic Conference is expected to look at adding Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA.
Pete Thamel first reported.
Some in the AAC have wanted to go big and take Texas away from potential Mountain West expansion.”
Rice had received almost passive mentions in realignment discussions to this point. The Owls were connected to rumblings regarding the AAC late this summer and were eventually linked to the Mountain West.
If these most recent reports come to fruition—something that seems very probable, if not likely, at this point— months of wondering would come to an end and Rice would escape Conference USA. The Owls’ newfound conference might look something like this:
West: Rice, SMU, Tulsa, Tulane, Navy, North Texas, UTSA
East: USF, FAU, Temple, Memphis, UAB, Charlotte, ECU
Meanwhile, Conference USA would be left in pieces. The remaining teams would be UTEP, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, Western Kentucky, Marshall, FIU and Old Dominion. If the Sun Belt were to come calling, the league might very well cease to exist. Whether it was cunning or luck, or a mixture of both, Rice football might have found itself in the right place at the right time.
This is a developing story. Updates will follow.