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What USF fans should know about AAC’s six new members

Meet the six new teams who will be playing the Bulls in the American Athletic Conference, including some familiar names and faces.
Florida Atlantic coach Willie Taggart will be coaching against USF soon as the Owls prepare to join the AAC.
Florida Atlantic coach Willie Taggart will be coaching against USF soon as the Owls prepare to join the AAC. [ JIM RASSOL | Palm Beach Post ]
Published Oct. 21
Updated Oct. 21

The American Athletic Conference has announced the future additions of six programs: Florida Atlantic, Charlotte, North Texas, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Rice and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Related: AAC adding 6: UAB, UTSA, FAU, Rice, North Texas, Charlotte

Here’s what Florida fans need to know about the six teams joining USF’s league:

Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Owls

The legendary Howard Schnellenberger built Florida Atlantic's football program from the ground up.
The legendary Howard Schnellenberger built Florida Atlantic's football program from the ground up. [ Times (2010) ]

Location: Boca Raton

Undergraduate enrollment: 25,562

2021 record: 3-3

Record over last five years: 35-20

Football history: Won its first conference title in 2007 (the Sun Belt under the late Howard Schnellenberger) in only its seventh season. Also won 11 games and Conference USA titles under Lane Kiffin in ‘17 and ‘19. Former running back Alfred Morris was a two-time Pro Bowler.

Connections to know: Former USF and Florida State coach Willie Taggart is in his second year as head coach. Program was built from the ground up by Schnellenberger, who led Miami to the state’s first national title in 1983. USF is 2-1 against the Owls, with the only loss in 2013.

University of North Carolina at Charlotte 49ers

Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds and the 49ers earned the program's first win over a Power Five opponent by beating Duke earlier this season.
Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds and the 49ers earned the program's first win over a Power Five opponent by beating Duke earlier this season. [ BRIAN WESTERHOLT | AP ]

Location: Charlotte, N.C.

Undergraduate enrollment: 24,175

2021 record: 4-2

Record over last five years: 19-30

Football history: Program started in 2013 and moved to Division I-A in ‘15. Only bowl appearance was a loss to Buffalo in the 2019 Bahamas Bowl. That was also Charlotte’s only winning season (7-6) and the first year for current head coach Will Healy. Earned first Power Five win in September with a 31-28 victory over Duke.

Connections to know: Athletic director Mike Hill spent 25 years as an administrator at Florida and helped on the searches that landed national championship coaches Billy Donovan and Urban Meyer.

Related: Why Temple is a must-win game for USF

University of North Texas Mean Green

Jaelon Darden starred at North Texas before being drafted by the Bucs.
Jaelon Darden starred at North Texas before being drafted by the Bucs. [ BRANDON WADE | Associated Press ]

Location: Denton, Texas

Undergraduate enrollment: 32,694

2021 record: 1-5

Record over last five years: 27-28

Football history: Have played since 1913 and opened a new stadium (capacity: 30,850) in 2011. College Football Hall of Famer Hayden Fry coached the Mean Green before becoming a legend at Iowa. Team nickname came from great defenses of the 1960s that included eventual Pittsburgh Steelers great “Mean” Joe Greene.

Connections to know: Bucs rookie Jaelon Darden broke school receiving records in career catches (230), yards (2,782) and touchdowns (38) before getting drafted in the fourth round. Mean Green has played every team in the state but UCF and is 9-19 all-time with five wins over Florida Atlantic, three over Florida International and one over the University of Tampa in 1966.

Related: Let’s talk about Dan Mullen’s long-term future at Florida

University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Roadrunners

The Roadrunners are 7-0 this season and just made the program's first appearance in the AP top 25.
The Roadrunners are 7-0 this season and just made the program's first appearance in the AP top 25. [ ERIC GAY | AP ]

Location: San Antonio, Texas

Undergraduate enrollment: 29,959

2021 record: 7-0

Record over last five years: 27-27

Football history: Program started in 2011 and earned its first national ranking (24th) Sunday. Coach Jeff Traylor coached Texas’ Gilmer High to three state titles and is 14-5. Roadrunners went to bowls in 2016 and ‘20 and had three winning seasons entering this fall. Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport was the program’s first first-round pick (14th overall, 2018).

Related: AP top 25: Florida’s off our ballot. Welcome, UTSA?

Connections to know: First head coach was Larry Coker, who won the 2001 national title at Miami and went 22-26 with the Roadrunners. Run game coordinator Matt Mattox held the same title at USF from 2017-18.

Rice University Owls

Rice coach Mike Bloomgren is a Tallahassee native who started coaching at Florida State under the legendary Bobby Bowden.
Rice coach Mike Bloomgren is a Tallahassee native who started coaching at Florida State under the legendary Bobby Bowden. [ CHUCK BURTON | AP ]

Location: Houston, Texas

Undergraduate enrollment: 4,076

2021 record: 2-4

Record over last five years: 10-38

Football history: Began playing in 1912. Seven all-time top-25 finishes but none since 1957. Beat Alabama in the Cotton Bowl after the ‘53 season in a game famous for the Crimson Tide’s Tommy Lewis coming off the sidelines to make an illegal tackle. Coached by John Heisman from 1924-27.

Connections to know: Coach Mike Bloomgren is a Tallahassee native and FSU alumnus who was an undergraduate assistant under Bobby Bowden. One of 22 programs with a winning record against the Gators (4-3-1). Rice gave Todd Graham his first college head coaching job; Graham’s coaching tree now includes UCF’s Gus Malzhan and FSU’s Mike Norvell. Baseball team regularly makes the NCAA Tournament; Devil Rays drafted pitchers Jeff Niemann (No. 4 overall, 2004) and Wade Townsend (No. 8 overall, 2005) in the first round.

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Blazers

The Blazers shut down less than a decade ago but returned to win the Conference USA title in their second season back.
The Blazers shut down less than a decade ago but returned to win the Conference USA title in their second season back. [ MARK HUMPHREY | AP (2018) ]

Location: Birmingham, Ala.

Undergraduate enrollment: 13,878

2021 record: 5-2

Record over last five years: 39-21

Football history: Started in 1991 as a Division III program before moving up. Shut down entirely in 2014 as a cost-cutting measure, but donations led to its return for the ‘17 season. Coach Bill Clark remarkably led the Blazers to the Bahamas Bowl that year and 11 wins and the Conference USA title the next. Also won its conference last season.

Connections to know: Current Gators assistant Garrick McGee went 5-14 as head coach from 2012-13. Program almost hired then-LSU assistant Jimbo Fisher after the 2006 season, but deal was nixed by Alabama trustees. Instead, Fisher joined FSU as an assistant and became a national championship head coach.

Source: Enrollment figures from U.S. News & World Report

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