Another day, another conference realignment move.
Since the 2023 college football season kicked off, the conference realignment cycle has quelled down. SMU announced its departure from the American Athletic Conference in favor of the Atlantic Coast Conference on Friday, Sept. 1, and now, the AAC has its replacement for the Mustangs.
The Army Black Knights will join the AAC as a football-only member starting with the 2024 season, concluding a 19-year run of the program holding independent status. Army will take the field with conference affiliation for the first time since operating out of Conference USA in 2004, and the Black Knights’ admittance to the AAC keeps the league at 14 teams after SMU’s departure.
The news of Army’s new conference affiliation was officially revealed Wednesday morning.
“We are honored to welcome Army to the American Athletic Conference,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. “Army’s football program has an iconic national brand with a legacy of success that spans more than a century and is a perfect fit with our conference. We are immensely proud to welcome another of our nation’s distinguished service academies with a proud history and central role in defending America and our freedoms, and which is one of the nation’s most prestigious academic institutions.”
Outside of the seven seasons spent in the CUSA from 1998 to 2004, Army has operated as an independent throughout its football history, which dates back to the 1890s. Army is the second service academy to transition from independent status to a football-only AAC member in the past decade, as its archrival Navy completed a similar move prior to the 2015 season.
Speaking of the iconic Army-Navy rivalry, while those two will share a conference, no changes are made to the annual game. The rivalry remains scheduled as a standalone contest for the second week of December, except it will remain a non-conference game, according to The Action Network’s breaking news reporter Brett McMurphy. However, there remains a possibility Army and Navy meet in consecutive weeks should the Black Knights and Midshipmen simultaneously qualify for the AAC Championship Game.
Army is expected to reserve another one of its annual non-conference games for Air Force, keeping the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy in tact between the three FBS service academies.
Army’s conference admittance thins out the number of FBS independents. In the 2022 season, six teams held independent status, but New Mexico State and Liberty were added to the CUSA and now Army is bound for the AAC. That leaves Notre Dame, UConn, and UMass as the only remaining three independent programs for the 2024 campaign.
In the AAC, Army adds the New York footprint as the Empire State’s lone team in the conference. The Black Knights replace Temple as the northernmost team in a league which ranges to distant locations such as Boca Raton, FL and San Antonio, TX. Since the formation of the AAC in 2013, Army has a 10-10 record against members of the conference with eight of those matchups involving Navy.
The 2024 AAC schedule has not been released, but before that is issued, Army must cancel several previously-arranged non-conference matchups as nine opponents are already booked, including Army and Air Force.