Army will join the American Athletic Conference as a football-only member in time for the 2024 college football season, the service academy announced on Wednesday. The move comes in the wake of SMU's plans to depart the AAC for the ACC in 2024, leaving the league with 13 teams. that the two sides had quickly engaged in "positive talks" for the Black Knights to replace the Mustangs. Those talks materialized into Wednesday's announcement that Army will now serve as the 14th football member of the conference.
"I am excited to start the next chapter of Army football," Black Knights athletic director Mike Buddie said in a statement. "In today's evolving collegiate athletics landscape, it is great to partner with established, respected programs to secure the future success of Army football. New NCAA rules, the evolution and growth of the College Football Playoff, the transfer portal, and name, image and likeness have all impacted our competitive landscape, so having a clear path to a Conference Championship, while continuing to fight for the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, will help us attract, retain, and showcase our exceptional coaches and cadets. What better pairing than to have America's Team joining the American Athletic Conference?"
In a Wednesday media teleconference AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said the league isn't pursuing additional expansion "at this point" with Army offsetting the loss of SMU. The AAC is currently in its first season as a 14-school conference. The conference saw three schools -- Cincinnati, Houston and UCF -- depart for the Big 12 in the offseason, but still increased its membership with six schools joining the league amid those departures.
The Black Knights have operated at the independent level since 2014 following a seven-year stint as a member of Conference USA, a league which Army left largely due to competitive reasons. Over the course of the past decade, however, the program has seen a resurgence under the direction of coach Jeff Monken. Since taking over Army football in 2014, Monken has guided the Black Knights to a 66-54 record including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2017-18.
"Like many of the proud moments that Army Football has enjoyed over the last several seasons including victories over our academy rivals, record-setting seasons, Commander-in-Chief's trophies, and multiple bowl games, Army's alliance with the American Athletic Conference is a source of pride for our Academy, our program, and for me personally," Monken said in a statement. "I am proud to be West Point's coach as we take this step from a history of independency to conference affiliation and take on the challenges of the competition in the American Athletic Conference. Our membership in the AAC partners us with outstanding Universities and athletic programs from around the nation and will give our football program the opportunity to compete for a conference championship and for our exceptional Cadet-Athletes to represent and showcase America's premier service academy."
With the move, Army will now be conference mates with traditional rival Navy. It was confirmed in the announcement that the Army vs. Navy Game -- which airs each season on CBS -- will remain on the schedule for the second week in December as a nonconference showdown. Both programs are eligible to take part in the AAC Championship Game, which is featured the week prior.