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Owls officially become members of American Athletic Conference

FAU exits C-USA, embarks on AAC journey with momentum on its side
FAU Owls American Athletic Conference logos side by side
Posted at 6:30 AM, Jul 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-01 15:53:35-04

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Goodbye, Conference USA. Hello, American Athletic Conference.

Florida Atlantic officially became one of the newest members of the AAC on Saturday with the start of the new academic year.

The AAC lost three schools – Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston – to the Big 12 Conference. That prompted the AAC to poach Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA from C-USA.

The six new AAC schools agreed to part ways with their former conference in time for the 2023-24 academic calendar.

Here is a look at FAU's biggest fall, winter and spring sports and what the new conference means for each.


Tom Herman leads the Owls for their conference transition.

Herman is no stranger to the AAC. He coached Houston for two seasons, leading the Cougars to a 12-4 conference record and winning the AAC title in 2015 before parlaying his success into a job at Texas.

Tom Herman, wife and children pose after he's introduced as FAU Owls head coach, Dec. 1, 2022
Tom Herman poses for a photograph with his wife and sons after being introduced as the new head coach at Florida Atlantic, Dec. 2, 2022, at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla.

Two years removed from the college game, Herman is back and in a state with fertile recruiting.

The new-look AAC will play as a 14-team league, sans divisions, in 2023, with the top two teams competing in the conference title game.

Navy remains with the conference as a football-only member. Wichita State, which doesn't have a football team, fills Navy's spot in all other sports.

One casualty of the conference move means that there will be no "Shula Bowl" game in 2023. FAU's longtime rival, Florida International, remains with C-USA, so the teams will take a sabbatical this season for the first time in more than two decades. The Owls and Panthers have played annually since 2002.

Instead, the Owls will face another state school this season – the geographically misnamed South Florida Bulls in Tampa.

There is good news for the future of the "Shula Bowl," however. The rivalry will resume in 2024 after the schools inked a four-year deal to play a non-conference series. FAU will host next year and in 2026, while FIU will host in 2025 and 2027.


FAU enters the AAC full of momentum fresh off its surprising run to the Final Four last season.

Head coach Dusty May was rewarded with a contract extension and most of the team's veteran players return for the 2023-24 season.

Florida Atlantic Owls head coach Dusty May reacts during first half of Final Four, April 1, 2023
Florida Atlantic head coach Dusty May reacts during the first half of a Final Four game against San Diego State in the NCAA tournament Saturday, April 1, 2023, in Houston.

The Owls took down future conference opponent Memphis in FAU's opening game of the NCAA tournament. Memphis won the conference tournament last season, so the Owls have already proven they can compete with the best of the AAC. Now it's just a matter of doing so consistently.

Houston was the 2022-23 regular-season champion and won the AAC tournament its previous two seasons. But with the Cougars off to the Big 12, FAU is a strong candidate to challenge for the AAC crown right away.


In most sports, going to a new conference means upgraded competition. But that might not be the case for FAU.

FAU has been a consistently good program for much of its existence.

The Owls have made 12 NCAA tournament appearances since moving to Division I in the 1990s and haven't finished with a losing record since 1998.

Those accolades are enough to tout FAU as a team that will likely elevate the AAC's baseball profile.

However, even though the Owls have won more than they've lost, they've also been stuck in a rut recently, unable to reach the 40-win mark for each of the past three years, excluding the 2020 season, which was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

FAU won 34 games in 2023, 35 in 2022 and 32 in 2021. Only once have the Owls reached the NCAA tournament without winning at least 40 games.

Making the postseason will be a priority for head coach John McCormack, who has led the Owls since 2009.

FAU Owls first baseman Nolan Schanuel celebrates as he rounds bases after hitting home run against Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, April 4, 2023
Florida Atlantic first baseman Nolan Schanuel celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a home run against Florida Gulf Coast on Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in Boca Raton, Fla.

FAU won the USF series this year, taking two of three against the Bulls in Boca Raton.

East Carolina has been the team to beat recently in the AAC. The Pirates have won the regular-season conference title every year since 2019, except for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Tulane won last season's AAC tournament and earned an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament despite having a losing record. Tulane's 40 losses were the most-ever for an NCAA tournament team.

Of the six new AAC schools, all but North Texas sponsor baseball.