UCF will compete in the American Athletic Conference for one more athletic season, then transition to membership in the Big 12 Conference beginning in 2023-24.
That became official today with the announcement by AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco that The American and UCF have reached an agreement regarding UCF’s departure from The American and its subsequent move to the Big 12.
Under the terms of the agreement, The American’s member institutions voted, in accordance with conference bylaws, to end UCF’s membership, effective July 1, 2023. Joining UCF in the move from the AAC will be the University of Cincinnati and the University of Houston.
“First, I would like to thank Mike Aresco and the leadership of the American Athletic Conference for its cooperation as all three schools worked through this matter over recent months,” said Terry Mohajir, UCF vice president and director of athletics.
“UCF teams in the American have produced many championships and other memorable moments. The 2022-23 athletics seasons will conclude a full decade for UCF in the AAC, and we are proud of the contributions we’ve made to grow and enhance the stature of the conference. We’re proud to participate and compete in this very competitive league for one more year.
“We are pleased that we were able to conclude these negotiations and now confirm our transition to Big 12 Conference membership for 2023-24.”
Added Aresco, “I would like to thank UCF President Alexander Cartwright, Cincinnati President Neville Pinto and Houston President Renu Khatour—as well as Tulane President Michael Fitts, who is chair of our Board of Directors–for their efforts and leadership to arrive at a sensible resolution to the three schools’ departure from the conference. All three institutions enjoyed tremendous success under the American Athletic Conference banner, and all three were instrumental in taking the conference to great heights, both athletically and academically. We wish them the best and look forward to having them compete in our conference in 2022-23.”
The three presidents—UCF’s Cartwright, Cincinnati’s Pinto and Houston’s Khatour–issued a joint statement: “It has been a privilege for our universities to compete at the highest level in the American Athletic Conference where our programs have grown and flourished, both athletically and academically. To be part of The American’s climb to national prominence in recent years is something we’ll always look back on with great pride. We are especially grateful to Commissioner Aresco and his staff for their efforts during this process and look forward to an outstanding year of competition in 2022-23.”
In its nine seasons in the AAC, Knight teams have won five conference championships each in volleyball and rowing, four in football, three each in men’s soccer, women’s soccer and softball, two each in women’s indoor track and field, women’s tennis and women’s golf and one each in women’s outdoor track and field, men’s tennis and baseball.
–UCF Conference Affiliation History
History shows UCF did not field a varsity football team until 1979. The Knights played at the NCAA Division III level with no scholarships for the first three years, moved up to Division II in 1982 and first became an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision member in 1990. UCF did not play its first Football Bowl Subdivision game (the current highest Division I level) until 1996. The Knights competed as a member of the Mid-American Conference from 2002-04, Conference USA from 2005-12—and have been an American Athletic Conference member since 2013.
UCF programs other than football have competed in the Sunshine State Conference, the American South Conference and the Sun Belt Conference. Knight women’s teams played in New South Women’s Athletic Conference through 1990, then after two years joined the Trans America Athletic Conference, later to become the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Sunshine State Conference (1975-84)
UCF’s first conference affiliation was with the Sunshine State Conference, starting in 1975. The Golden Knights were a charter member of the Division II league which included Biscayne College (now St. Thomas University), Eckerd, Florida Southern, Rollins and Saint Leo.
Originally founded as a men’s basketball league, the Sunshine State Conference added golf, tennis, baseball, soccer and cross country during the late 1970s. In April of 1982, the league adopted women’s competition in basketball, cross country, slow-pitch softball, tennis and volleyball. Following the 1983-84 season, UCF withdrew from the Sunshine State Conference and moved to the NCAA Division I level. The Golden Knights competed as an independent until 1990.
American South Conference (1990-91)
In 1990, the Golden Knights joined the American South Conference, its first Division I league affiliation for all sports. UCF spent one campaign in the league which also featured Arkansas State, Lamar, Louisiana Tech, New Orleans, Texas-Pan American and Southwestern Louisiana.
New South Women’s Athletic Conference (1986-90 women’s only)
UCF was a charter member of the New South Women’s Athletic Conference, the forerunner of the Atlantic Sun. The Golden Knights women’s basketball, women’s golf and volleyball teams competed in the conference. During UCF’s stint in the league, Florida A&M, Florida International, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Mercer and Stetson were members.
Sun Belt Conference (1991-92)
Following the 1990-91 academic year, the American South merged with the Sun Belt (which retained its name), forming an 11-institution conference. During the 1991-92 season, the league was composed of Arkansas-Little Rock, Arkansas State, UCF, Jacksonville, Lamar, Louisiana Tech, New Orleans, South Alabama, Southwestern Louisiana, Texas-Pan American and Western Kentucky. That year marked the Golden Knights lone season in the Sun Belt.
Atlantic Sun Conference (1992-05)
UCF joined the Atlantic Sun (then known as the Trans America Athletic Conference) in 1992. As a new member, the Golden Knights men’s basketball squad did not play a full league schedule during the 1992-93 season. During UCF’s tenure in the league, membership changes occurred frequently. Including UCF, 16 institutions were part of the conference since 1992. In 13 seasons in the league, the Golden Knights competed against Belmont, Campbell, Centenary, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Gardner-Webb, Georgia State, Jacksonville, Jacksonville State, Lipscomb, Mercer, Samford, Southeastern Louisiana, Stetson and Troy.
Mid-American Conference (2002-04, football-only)
After 24 seasons as a Division I Football Independent, UCF joined the Mid-American Conference in 2002 as a football-only member. The Golden Knights spent three years in the Midwest-based league. The league featured two divisions. UCF competed in the East along with Akron, Buffalo, Kent State, Marshall, Miami (Ohio) and Ohio. The West was comprised of Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan.
Conference USA (2005-12)
UCF in 2005 joined a reworked Conference USA lineup—with the Knights and Marshall coming from the Mid-American Conference and Rice, SMU, Tulsa and UTEP coming from the Western Athletic Conference. Those six joined Southern Miss, UAB, Memphis, Tulane, Houston and East Carolina in a two-division format for football.
American Athletic Conference (2013-current)
The American began competing in 2013, with Louisville and Rutgers in the original league before departing after one year. Other original members were Connecticut, Cincinnati, Houston, UCF, Memphis, SMU, South Florida and Temple. East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa joined in 2014, Navy (for football only) in 2015 and Wichita State in 2017. Connecticut departed after the 2019-2020 seasons.