Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wichita State to join the AAC?

This had been rumored for several weeks, and it now looks like it's going to happen:
The American Athletic Conference is engaged in talks to add Wichita State, according to multiple sources. The conversations have advanced to where a timeline for potential membership has emerged, including the possibility of Wichita State playing in the AAC as soon as next season. 
There’s strong mutual interest between both sides, and sources said that a final decision could be made within the next month or in as few as the next two weeks. Any decision would need to be approved by the American Athletic Conference’s presidents, but the mutual interest is strong enough where neither side sees any looming issues.  
The biggest lingering detail remains when Wichita State would leave the Missouri Valley Conference to begin play in the AAC. Sources said there’s a strong chance that the Shockers could play in the AAC in the 2017-18 season, as both sides would prefer Wichita State avoiding playing a lame duck year in the Missouri Valley Conference. 
Valley officials are prepared for the move, as one told Sports Illustrated on Thursday night: “We understand that this is in the works and that it’s a strong possibility.”
The MVC is certainly not keen to lose their best basketball program (the Shockers would have gone to or even past the Sweet Sixteen this year if the hadn't been mis-seeded and forced to play Kentucky so early in the tournament), but this is a great pickup for the American.

Not only does Wichita State have a good basketball program, but the AAC could use a 12th school for basketball (Navy is a football-only member). Adding Wichita State will allow the conference to split into two logical geographic divisions (west and east) for basketball. Wichita State also has a good baseball program. Wichita State is an urban public school, like many current AAC members (Houston, Memphis, Cincinnati, Temple, etc.), and is close enough to at least one current AAC school (Tulsa) so as not to be a geographic outlier. (Wichita State dropped football in 1986; there's been some talk about resurrecting the program but that doesn't seem imminent.)

As the article notes, the Shockers' move from the MVC (where they've played since 1945) is not yet official; however, mutual interest is strong and WSU is a good fit, so I expect that this will happen soon.

Wichita State and Houston have history; Houston was a member of the MVC in the 1950s. The Cougars are 9-16 all-time against the Shockers in mens basketball.

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