UTSA announces move to the American Athletic Conference


Dr. Campos and President Eighmy answer questions from the press. Dalton Hartmann/The Paisano

Ryder Martin, Sports Editor

On Thursday, Oct. 21, UTSA and the American Athletic Conference (AAC) formally announced that UTSA had applied for and been accepted into the AAC. Alongside UTSA, five other schools from Conference USA were accepted into the AAC: Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, Rice, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of North Texas. The move by UTSA will see them join their fifth Division I conference in their history after previous stops with the Trans America Athletic Conference, the Southland Conference, the Western Athletic Conference and Conference USA. 

At a press conference held later that day, UTSA President Taylor Eighmy and Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Lisa Campos answered questions and explained how the move came together. The two leading figures in the transition each expressed their excitement about the move.

“This is a wonderfully momentous day for our athletics program and our university. UTSA is on this incredibly positive trajectory, and we need our athletics program to be on that same trajectory as well,” President Eighmy said in his opening statement.

“It is so wonderful to be with you all here today celebrating this great news of joining the American Athletic Conference,” Dr. Campos said. 

Dr. Campos answers questions from the press. Dalton Hartmann/The Paisano

The move by UTSA to the American Athletic Conference comes amid a wave of conference realignment in Division 1 athletics, notably the news in August that the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma were leaving the Big 12 and moving to the South Eastern Conference (SEC). The news shocked many in the college sports world and set the wheels in motion for UTSA’s eventual move to the AAC. 

“It might have started the minute that the world learned that Texas and Oklahoma were departing the Big 12 for the SEC. Lisa was deeply engaged, tireless and committed to this notion around advancing opportunities to best benefit our athletic enterprise … Lisa was relentless about this throughout the process,” President Eighmy commented on how UTSA first began to pursue the deal.

One common point brought up by both President Eighmy and Dr. Campos throughout the conference was the need to increase the athletics budget and upgrade the various athletics facilities in order to remain competitive with the move to the AAC. 

“We want to be a top tier program in athletics and that does mean growing our budgets and growing our staff and doing all of these things …We talked about the future projects from volleyball and basketball practice facilities, to softball and baseball facilities. Our Park West project, there is so much to do and we always talk about this as just the beginning,” Dr. Campos said. 

Although firm financial details were not disclosed, the move does represent a major step up in the media rights payout to UTSA from their conference. President Eighmy emphasized in his remarks that the move made “significant financial sense” for the university to join the AAC. The AAC is currently in the midst of a 12-year $1 billion agreement with ESPN, a deal that previously paid members around six million a year annually, although that will likely be reduced as the conference expands to 15 teams. Conference USA is currently in the midst of a media rights deal that paid UTSA around $500,000 last year. 

Although no firm start date for UTSA’s membership was announced, Dr. Campos did say there was a projected date in play that UTSA would be in for sure. However, the current situation around Texas and Oklahoma could move the timetable up if they leave for the SEC earlier than planned.

“It is projected no later than entering July 2024,” Dr. Campos said. “Everybody is anticipating the additional domino effects that will come from whenever Texas and Oklahoma leave, and then whenever Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston jump into the Big 12. All of that could move up the date, but the date that Lisa references is the no later date,” President Eighmy further explained. 

President Eighmy answers questions from the press. Dalton Hartmann/The Paisano

Another common theme throughout was the idea that UTSA Athletics is at a very pivotal moment in its history and that the time to capitalize now.

“We need to build on the momentum of football; we need to build on the momentum around the coaches we’ve been hiring; we need to build on the momentum of the success of our student athletes; we need to build on the momentum of fan interest, the alumni interest and the donor interest in this. These harmonic convergences don’t always come our way, and it’s for us to grab, embrace, own to take full advantage of this moment in time,” President Eighmy elaborated. 

When UTSA officially joins the AAC, they as well as the five other C-USA teams will join AAC incumbents East Carolina, Memphis, Navy (football-only), South Florida, SMU, Temple, Tulane, Tulsa and Wichita State (non-football). The move to the AAC will also give UTSA greater media exposure as the AAC enjoys broadcasting partnerships with ESPN and CBS Sports.