Jon Rothstein, among others, tweeted on Tuesday morning that Wichita State will be joining the American Athletic Conference, effective immediately for the 2017-18 season. On Friday, the 12 members of the conference voted unanimously to add the Shockers.
The Shockers have seen great success in men’s basketball in recent years under head coach Gregg Marshall, with a 31-5 record and an NCAA Tournament win this year before losing 65-62 to Kentucky in the second round.
They have made the NCAA Tournament every season since 2012, highlighted by a Final Four appearance in 2013 and a Sweet 16 in 2015. They also won the NIT in 2011.
Wichita State is looking to increase its basketball profile, as they have lost 11 games in Missouri Valley Conference play since the 2011-12 season and are consistently underseeded due to a lack of respect for their conference. The American has had similar problems, but it’s indisputably better than the MVC and will now be in better shape with Wichita State.
According to previous reports, the Shockers will be joining in all sports that they offer, including baseball, but not football since they do not have a team. The baseball team would be a great addition to an already great conference, as their squad made the NCAA Tournament every season from 1987-2009 and won the 1989 national championship.
The Shockers also field teams in softball, men’s cross country, golf, tennis and track and field in addition to women’s basketball, cross country, golf, tennis, track and field as well as volleyball.
For The American, adding Wichita State is an attempt to improve the basketball profile. That may work in the short term, but the Shockers’ only sustained success has been under Marshall. Should he leave and his replacement not be able to continue the program’s strong play, this could end up being a regrettable decision.
They also contribute to the disjointed geography of the conference. There are five schools on the East coast, and if Wichita State does join, there are now six on or west of the Mississippi River and then there’s Cincinnati, who isn’t really near anything. The geographic isolation of multiple schools prevents rivalries and hurts away fan attendance compared to other programs.
If Wichita State can stay good and take advantage of this rise in status, it will help the AAC and go down as a savvy move to address a major need for the basketball league.
However, if Marshall jumps ship for greener pastures and his replacement can’t carry the mantle, then this move could really hurt the conference in the long run, particularly considering the history of conferences mixing football-playing and basketball-only schools (RIP Big East).