Houston (CBS Houston) – The American Athletic Conference unanimously voted on the addition of Wichita State as the newest member of the conference in all sports except football.
“This (Wichita State) is a University with a strong athletic and academic heritage which shares our conference’s commitment to excellence, and we look forward to having them as a member. The University has an exceptionally strong tradition of success in men’s basketball and baseball. The addition of Wichita State in basketball and Olympic sports extends our conference’s national footprint, enhances our national profile, and strengthens our position as a leader in intercollegiate athletics,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said.
Wichita State will join the conference at the start of the 2017-18 season and participate in 15 different sports.
“This is an event of great importance in defining the future of Wichita State,” John Bardo, President of Wichita State University said. “Two years ago, we set out on a fact-finding process to determine the best way athletics could help position the University for enrollment growth and enhance WSU’s reputation as an academic and research institution. It became clear to us that The American offered the best combination of universities who share our academic and cultural values and research focus.”
From a University of Houston perspective the move makes sense for a number of reasons. The biggest is the quality of the Shockers’ basketball program, which could potentially be a top 10 team heading into next season. Overall it helps the conference’s reputation and should benefit computer models such as RPI and BPI with the strengthening of the league. It also helps financially as Wichita State’s consistent bids in the NCAA tournament would help grow everyone’s “piece of the pie” for tournament shares. Wichita State’s addition could also lead to a better basketball television contract when the current one expires.
Wichita State leaves the Missouri Valley Conference where their men’s basketball team has won four straight regular season championships, have won 25 games in eight straight season and were a final four team as recently as 2013.
Additionally, the lift Wichita State brings the conference in basketball, while not as popular, it may mean just as much competitively to the league’s baseball programs. Currently the American Conference has just eight teams competing in baseball, which means a 24 game conference season, and playing one team in two series and every other team just in one series. By adding another program, the league will more than likely stay at 24 games, but will have a balanced schedule.
“With the addition of Wichita State, The American Conference has immediately strengthened its brand. The Shockers have a history of championship caliber programs and will provide a tough test for our member institutions. Its central location also extends The American’s footprint and provides a short trip for our student-athletes and our fan base. We welcome Wichita State and we look forward to another step forward with The American,” UH Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said.