Beginning in 2015, the American Athletic Conference will split into two football divisions that consist of six teams apiece, league Commissioner Mike Aresco announced Friday.
East Carolina will be a part of the East Division, joining UCF, Cincinnati, Connecticut, South Florida and Temple. The West consists of Houston, Tulsa, Memphis, Tulane, Southern Methodist and Navy, who joins the AAC in 2015.Here is more from an American Athletic Conference press release:
The East-West format was approved unanimously by the conference's chief executive officers at the league's annual meetings. The 2015 football season will culminate with the conference's first championship game.
"This is an exciting step in the continued development of our conference," said Aresco. "With our performance on the field and the exposure we received from our media partners, I couldn't be more satisfied with our first year of American Athletic Conference football. Creating this divisional format will allow us to build upon that success. Our fans will enjoy our divisional play and the championship game that will be established in 2015.
"The East-West format we have adopted gives each division a distinct identity, provides long-term competitive balance and protects traditional rivalries while allowing each school to travel across the conference's geographical footprint on a regular basis."
Each team will play a total of eight conference games, facing the other five teams in its own division as well as three from the other division, ensuring that each school will play every conference opponent at home and on the road at least once in a four-year cycle. The division winners will play for the conference title at the home site of the highest ranked divisional champion.
The two-division format will come on the heels of a remarkable debut for the AAC in 2013 and what promises to be an equally successful 2014 campaign. The American was one of three FBS conferences – along with the Big Ten and the SEC – that had two 12-win teams in 2013, including UCF, which went 12-1 and defeated Big 12 champion Baylor in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
The American has the most challenging nonconference schedule of any league in 2014, including scheduled games against 10 teams that were ranked in the top 25 of last year's final USA Today Coaches' Poll (South Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Baylor, UCLA, Texas A&M, Wisconsin, Duke, Vanderbilt) and additional games against BYU (three), Georgia Tech, Miami and Penn State.
In addition to the divisional alignment announcement, Aresco confirmed two other football-related procedural items, which were approved by the conference's athletic directors, to be implemented for the 2014-15 season:
2014 Regular Season Tiebreaker Procedure: For the 2014 season, the American Athletic Conference Football Champion will be the team that finishes the regular season with the highest winning percentage in conference games. If more than one team has the same winning percentage, the tied teams are declared co-champions. To determine the College Football Playoff/Host Bowl representative, the co-champion ranked highest by the College Football Playoff Committee will be eligible to receive the automatic bid shared with Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt conferences.
Eighth Official: The American will add an eighth on-field official, who will be positioned behind the quarterback, for all of its conference games in 2014 for a one-season trial. The eighth official will also be used in all of Navy's games in which game officials are assigned by The American. The conference's head football coaches recommended implementation primarily to enhance student-athlete safety.