American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco announced a two-year scheduling model for football that included conference-only games on Monday.
With the University of Connecticut leaving the conference on July 1, 2020, the AAC will be left with 11 teams in its football conference starting next season. Even without that 12th team, however, the AAC was granted a waiver by the NCAA to maintain its conference championship game.
“The waiver was very important, it was a relief to get it,” Aresco said back in October. “You never take anything for granted... we were hopeful but we got it for ‘20 and ‘21. Having the waiver for ‘20 and ‘21 gives us some breathing space. We didn’t want to be forced to add a team in order to play a championship game or to play a championship game with uneven divisions. This allows us to play with 11 teams, to match our two top teams.”
Divisions dissolved beginning in 2020, the AAC will keep its model of playing eight conference and four non-conference games. With that in place, each team in the conference is set to face the other 10 at least once in the span of the next two seasons, a move to keep play fair and balanced within the league.
In 2020, East Carolina University is scheduled to play the University of Central Florida, the United States Naval Academy, Southern Methodist University and Tulane University at home. The Pirates will get the University of Cincinnati, the University of South Florida, Temple University and the University of Tulsa on the road in league play.
In 2021, ECU gets Cincinnati, USF, Temple and Tulane at home and will travel to UCF, the University of Houston, the University of Memphis and Navy to round out its conference schedule.
“This scheduling model provides balance and competitive equity and will contribute to the exciting seasons to which we have become accustomed in the American Athletic Conference,” Aresco said in a press release. “It is a fair model that was unanimously supported by our athletic directors.”
ECU has not played Tulane, Memphis or Houston since 2018. All three of those games, however, resulted in losses for the Pirates as part of a 3-9 campaign one season ago. The times and dates for each matchup in 2020 will be announced in February while the conference has yet to announce what process will be used to determine the two teams that will play in the league championship games moving forward.
The Pirates are scheduled to be back in action on Saturday when they travel to East Hartford to face the UConn Huskies. Kickoff is slated for noon.