North Texas’ move from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference now has a timeline.
The American announced in October that UNT would be among six schools from C-USA that would join the league in the coming months.
The only question was when those schools would officially make the move. The timing came into focus on Friday morning when the American announced that it has reached an agreement with Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston on a date for their departure for the Big 12.
All three will terminate their membership in the American on July 1, 2023.
A source with knowledge of the situation told the Denton Record-Chronicle on Friday morning that UNT is expected to leave C-USA next summer and officially become a member of the American in July 2023.
UNT is expected to officially announce the timing of its move to the American in the next few days.
Charlotte, another school that is making the move from C-USA to the American, released its announcement on Friday morning.
While UNT has yet to officially announce its move, it did release a statement from athletic director Wren Baker addressing conference realignment and the American’s announcement that Houston, UCF and Cincinnati have set their departure date.
“We are pleased with the announcement made by Commissioner Aresco and the American Athletic Conference this morning,” Baker said. “We appreciate all the hard work behind the scenes by multiple conferences that have laid the groundwork for a smooth transition between so many institutions and look forward to the tremendous opportunity that stands in front of us.”
UTSA, Rice, UAB and Florida Atlantic are the other four teams moving from C-USA to the American, along with UNT and Charlotte.
The American is widely viewed as a higher-level conference than C-USA. Switching leagues is expected to bolster UNT’s athletics program from a financial and competitive standpoint.
SMU, Memphis, East Carolina, Temple, Tulsa, South Florida, Navy and Tulane are already members of what will be a league centered in the Southwest. Navy is a football-only member of the American, while Wichita State competes in the league in basketball and Olympic sports.
UNT will forfeit two years of revenue distribution from C-USA to make the move to the American. UNT is expecting the total amount of revenue it loses to be between $2 million and $3 million.
That is a small price to pay for moving to the American. School officials are expecting athletics revenue to increase substantially after it moves to its new league because of the American’s television and other revenue streams that are more lucrative than what C-USA offers.
American schools currently receive about $7 million per school annually in media rights revenue, far and away more than the $500,000 C-USA schools receive.
The amount schools in the American receive annually is expected to decline significantly following the departure of Houston, Cincinnati and UCF, three of its highest profile programs.
Even with those schools leaving, UNT officials see moving to the American as a key step forward for the program.
“This move means so much for the university, not just in terms of moving into a conference that is clearly prestigious, but also in terms of the reputation it will help create for us on a national level,” UNT President Neal Smatresk said during the school’s press conference in October announcing the move. “You think about the television exposure and the media attention we will gain.”
UNT has long desired to be affiliated with prominent programs in Texas and the Southwest. The school will be in the best position it has been in, in decades in the American.
SMU is a member of the American. UNT has long viewed the school as one of its most important rivals and is set to share a league with the Dallas school.
Landing in a conference with Tulsa, Tulane, UTSA and Rice will give UNT more prominent regional rivals than it has had in decades. Being in a league with that contingent of schools is expected to elevate UNT’s profile in the region.
“It’s not that our growth potential would have been stymied had we not gotten this opportunity, but this certainly lifts that ceiling even higher,” Baker said earlier this year. “We’ll have a chance to continue to recruit better and to retain student-athletes and coaches and staff.”
UNT is now officially just weeks away from its last season in C-USA, a league the school has been a member of since 2013.
Baker and UNT officials have consistently cited its time in C-USA as having been an important era that has helped the school’s athletics program grow.
The school opened Apogee Stadium, the Lovelace & McNatt Families Indoor Practice Facility and several other venues during its time in C-USA. UNT has also seen several of its teams excel during its time in the league.
UNT has played in bowl games in five of the last six seasons and also picked up its first NCAA tournament win in men’s basketball in the spring of 2021, when the Mean Green knocked off Purdue. The school’s softball program made the NCAA tournament for the first time this spring and went on to advance to the final of the Stillwater Regional.
UNT’s accomplishments during its time in C-USA made the school attractive to the American.
“UNT has gained tremendous momentum across campus over the last two years and this forthcoming transition highlights our progress,” Smatresk said in a statement late Friday afternoon. “This is another step toward new heights and demonstrates more of the good things still to come for our university and athletics department. We are looking forward to working with our new colleagues in The American.”
UNT now knows exactly when it will have a chance to take advantage of those opportunities after the American’s announcement on Friday morning.