We all like to pretend that we know whether or not the wheels of conference re-alignment are spinning, but the truth is that nobody knows.
Nobody knows how schools are going to react in the wake of recent NCAA (autonomy) and courtroom (O'Bannon vs. NCAA) decisions which portend a shift in the landscape of college sports.
The leadership of the American Athletic Conference fully understands that any of their schools would leave at the drop of a hat if the "Power Five" came calling. For all we know these recent changes have had them hitting the phones even harder to catalyze movement. This is why the conference needs to get ahead of the wave and scoop up UTSA before someone else does- or before a school departs the American and leaves them scrambling with no leverage to find a replacement.
The American Athletic Conference, given the circumstances, has done quite well for itself. After the collapse of the Big East football conference, they did well to add schools from major metropolitan markets across the eastern third of the United States, including two impressive football programs from UCF and ECU. They are adding Navy, a respected program with a rich football history and national following, next year. The other programs all have potential or have shown glimpses in the past.
But the AAC can't rest on it's laurels, because the whirlwind can start any second. They need to bring in more schools who can add value.
That's why the University of Texas at San Antonio is a perfect fit for the American. The school has over 30,000 students in a top-40 TV market and a very promising fledgling football program, led by Larry Coker. The football team looks doubly impressive when you consider that it is only four years old.
UTSA is not considered a great academic school, though its academics have improved significantly since the early-2000's. But it has been made especially clear that that academics are not the priority of the conference re-aligners. What does work in their favor, however, is the money of the rich corporate base in San Antonio.
TV market, football and corporate sponsorship drive the bus? Check, check, check for UTSA.
By joining, the Roadrunners immediately claim the best nickname-in-the-conference award and solidify the conference presence in Texas, which is good for everybody's recruiting. Houston and SMU will provide good opportunities to drive fun and friendly regional rivalries - you know, that thing that used to drive college sports. They will make more money, gain more exposure for their university, and compete against better competition to continue their rise up the ranks.
Realistically, because of some combination of their TV market and quality of revenue programs, you could make the argument for just about any school in the American to get a phone call from an enterprising conference during the next round of conference re-alignment. Keep in mind that the almighty Big Ten just added Rutgers...the American didn't even want Rutgers. Gross.
UTSA currently sits in Conference-USA, which has been their home since July 2013. Conference-USA has been the breeding ground for the American, who has poached eight teams from the conference and even grabbed Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati from it's ranks way back when there was a thing called Big East Football. It's time for them to reach into the well again, and make a power grab for the betterment of the conference and it's competition- particularly in a weak West division.
When Navy joins the American next year, the conference membership will stand at twelve. While it may be a minor nuisance, having thirteen teams wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. But in case you like symmetry, there are a number of candidates to be the American's fourteenth team.
Rice, North Texas or UAB would make a great dance partner. In fact, any two out of these four schools would make sense to the American. If conference leadership is smart, they will take care of this before going into television contract negotiations after the 2019-'20 season. It would behoove them to add millions of television sets into the equation going into those conversations.