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North Texas athletics to join American Athletic Conference next summer

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North Texas’ days in Conference USA are officially numbered.

In a statement released on June 15, the school’s athletic department announced the Mean Green will begin their membership in the American Athletic Conference on July 1, 2023, along with five other current C-USA schools. North Texas President Neal Smatresk said moving to the new conference is “another stellar example highlighting our progress.”

“Our university community is looking forward to working with our new colleagues in The American and to all the great things still to come for our athletics department and our university,” Smatresk said.

A member of C-USA since 2013, the Mean Green will leave the conference after a decade of membership. North Texas spent 12 years in the Sun Belt Conference from 2001 to 2013 before moving to C-USA. The program’s move to The American marks its second new conference in the last ten years.

North Texas has won 19 titles (including regular season championships) across seven sports in its nine years in C-USA. Most recently, the school’s softball program defeated Western Kentucky University in the C-USA tournament championship game on May 14, clinching the team’s first NCAA Regional bid in school history.

Wren Baker, North Texas’ vice president and director of athletics,  said moving to The American is the next “challenge” for the athletic program.

 “This is an exciting time at North Texas, and we look forward to the upcoming challenge of entering The American next fall,” Baker said. “Our student-athletes and coaches have made significant accomplishments during our time in Conference USA, but we look forward to what is next with great optimism.”

Last October, North Texas, Florida Atlantic University, Rice University, the University of Alabama-Birmingham, the University of Texas-San Antonio and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte announced a move to The American was official and would take place as early as 2023. The six-team move will align with the University of Cincinnati, University of Houston and University of Central Florida’s corresponding move to the Big 12 Conference for the 2023-24 athletic year.

“We are extremely pleased and excited to welcome our new members to the conference in 2023, as we begin our second decade,” The American Commissioner Mike Aresco said. “Our incoming schools comprise a distinguished group with attributes that will enhance our conference’s Power 6 goals.”

3 C-USA teams have already departed to the Sun Belt following the 2021-22 season, creating a smaller, 11-team field in the conference for 2022-23 competitions. Following the Mean Green’s and five other schools’ departures next summer, C-USA will decrease to nine members after adding four previously announced universities to the conference.

Realignments of The American and C-USA represent a fraction of a bigger change to the landscape of college athletics. The gears of realignment began turning following the July 27, 2021 letter from Big 12 powerhouses, the University of Texas-Austin and the University of Oklahoma that entailed the two schools’ departure to the Southeastern Conference. At this point, that move is expected to occur following the 2023-24 athletic season.

The American has seen success in the last decade, most notably from Central Florida’s football program as the Knights won two New Year’s six bowls in 2013 and 2017 with the latter victory completing a perfect 13-0 season. Along with Central Florida, Cincinnati found success last football season with an appearance in the College Football Playoff, becoming the first non-Power Five team to make the four-team championship. Additionally, Houston men’s basketball has made the NCAA tournament three years in a row, making the Final Four in 2021 and Elite Eight in 2022.

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With each of the aforementioned teams transitioning to the Big 12, North Texas is among the teams hoping to find the same success that Houston, Central Florida and Cincinnati have had in The American. Aresco said he’s confident the Mean Green and the other five additions will continue the conference’s momentum.

“We have already seen the investment and commitment that these institutions have made as they prepare to compete in The American,” Aresco said. “Together with our accomplished incumbent institutions, the conference is assured of many years of championship-level competition as part of a bright future that will build on the extraordinary legacy of the past decade.”

Featured Image: Apogee Stadium is lit up before orientation on June 17, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane

Article Originally Published by Reed Smith on North Texas Daily

Source: North Texas Daily

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