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Tulsa begins new era in American Athletic Conference

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The University of Tulsa begins its membership in the American Athletic Conference July 1, 2014.Athletics

Not entirely unlike the nation that provides its namesake, the American Athletic Conference was born from an ideal in which members with ambitious goals are provided with the means to succeed in their quests for excellence.

After nine seasons as a member of Conference USA, The University of Tulsa begins its membership in the American Athletic Conference today — July 1, 2014.

With roots that extend to three conferences, the American Athletic Conference membership in 2014-15 will consist of 11 institutions: the University of Central Florida, the University of Cincinnati, East Carolina University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Houston, the University of Memphis, the University of South Florida Southern Methodist University, Temple University, Tulane University and The University of Tulsa.

The conference enters its second year of competition under the American Athletic Conference moniker, while East Carolina and Tulane join Tulsa as newcomers to the league this season. The U.S. Naval Academy will join the conference in 2015 for football only.

The American Athletic Conference is the sixth league in the history of Tulsa athletics, although not every sport participated in conference play for that many years. Tulsa was a member of the Oklahoma Collegiate Conference for 15 years (1914-1928), the Big Four Conference four seasons (1929-32), the Missouri Valley Conference for 60 years (1935-96), the Western Athletic Conference for nine seasons (1996-2005) and Conference USA for the past nine seasons (2005-14).

Tulsa enters the American Athletic Conference after winning 56 Conference USA Championships in nine seasons, capturing at least one title in 13 of 18 intercollegiate sports. Hurricane teams won seven league crowns in its final season of C-USA competition.

“The University of Tulsa and Conference USA have enjoyed very positive and mutually beneficial relationship during the past nine years.” said Dr. Derrick Gragg, TU Vice President & Director of Athletics. “As we move forward, we are extremely excited about our new affiliation with the American Athletic Conference and its member institutions. This opportunity places us in the most elite conference in school history and will provide national exposure for our athletic program and the university as a whole. We are looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.”

The Tulsa football team will kick-off league play with the first American Athletic Conference event in school history when the Hurricane hosts an old Conference USA rival in the likes of Tulane on Thursday night, August 28, 2014, a game that will be televised nationally by CBS Sports Network.

Under the leadership of commissioner Mike Aresco, The American, which operated as the Big East Conference from 1979 to 2013, has immediately taken a place at the forefront of Division I athletics, with schools that have played in four Bowl Championship Series games, won four NCAA men’s basketball titles since 1999, and won nine NCAA women’s basketball championships since 1995.

Two American Athletic Conference football teams were ranked in the top 15 of the final 2013 Associated Press poll. Five were selected for bowl games, including UCF, which won the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 10 nationally. The conference produced 14 players who received All-America recognition by a major outlet.

The success of The American in Year 1 was not limited to the gridiron. UConn won NCAA titles in both men’s and women’s basketball. The conference had the best postseason winning percentage of any league in men’s basketball, while The American produced top-10 teams in baseball, men’s soccer and men’s golf and sent half of its participating teams to the NCAA Softball Championship.

The American Athletic Conference holds television partnerships with ESPN and CBS Sports, which will give the conference unprecedented national exposure. The football portion of the contract, which begins in the 2014 season, calls for nearly 90 percent of conference-controlled games on national broadcast or national cable platforms. The first American Athletic Conference Football Championship, which will be played in 2015, will be carried either on ABC or ESPN on Championship Saturday.

In men’s basketball, the television deal calls for all conference-controlled games to be televised, with more than 63 percent slotted for national broadcast or national cable – a minimum of 107 games. The entire postseason tournament will be televised, including the championship game, which will be either on ABC or ESPN. Sixty percent of the American’s women’s basketball games will be carried on either national cable, regional sports networks or ESPN3.

In Tulsa’s first year as a league member, the Golden Hurricane will host three American Athletic Conference Championships. Indian Spring Country Club in nearby Broken Arrow will be the site of the Cross Country Championships in the fall of 2014, while the Michael D. Case Tennis Center will serve as host site of the C-USA Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships in the spring of 2015.

The American Athletic Conference administers to its membership from a state-of-the-art office located in Providence, R.I. The location of the conference headquarters – just steps from the city’s Amtrak station and 10 minutes from T.F. Green International Airport – gives the conference easy access to its member schools.

American Athletic Conference Membership

  • East Carolina
  • Central Florida (UCF)
  • Cincinnati
  • Connecticut
  • Memphis
  • Houston
  • SMU
  • South Florida
  • Temple
  • Tulane
  • Tulsa

Don Tomkalski