Skip to main content

The American Athletic Conference formally announced Army as the league's 14th member for the 2024 football season on Wednesday. 

Thursday afternoon, Army West Point Director of Athletics Mike Buddie discussed the move with members of the local and national media on a roughly 25-minute Zoom call. 

One of Buddie's first points was in regards to the negotiations with the AAC to make the move possible.

"This was kind of a weird negotiation in that neither side was overly, passionately, desperately wanting this to happen," Buddie stated. "I think the American clearly wanted Army. If they were going to go to 14, Army was their clear choice. But I think they also knew there's a lot of options for the 14th team. Our side, we kind of thought 'well, you know what, we're happy being independent.' We're not like in desperation of having to join a conference. It actually made it a less stressful negotiation. And then it was like 'hey, we'll explore it. And if you can make it make sense for us, then let's talk.' Commissioner Aresco was very similar in that he said 'hey our membership is very interested in you, but it's got to make sense for us as well.' It was very interesting."

Buddie also stated that over the last four-to-five years, he had made a point to network with the other G5 commissioners, as well as G5 athletic directors, in case that need for Army to join a conference was ever elevated. 

Army football has been independent for the majority of it's 130-year history, except for 1998 to 2004, when they were a member of Conference USA. The experience was largely negative for the Black Knights. Buddie addressed possible concerns that may linger from that time. The main thing Buddie said that assuaged his worries about the AAC was the balance in the conference, compared to what CUSA was 20 years ago. 

"This program is in a completely different place than it was in 1997. Jeff Monken has us competitive in every aspect of college football - in recruiting, our strength facilities, our locker room facilities, our nutrition commitment. All of those things that are in place, when you look at the teams that are currently competing in the American...we are not at a disadvantage." 

Buddie also reference multiple times in the call that the current College Football Playoff model, which includes a favorable revenue distribution to teams in an FBS conference, played a role in the decision.

Another major factor in the decision was the input of 19 football players who are on head coach Jeff Monken's leadership council. These players indicated the opportunity to earn All-Conference honors and and the opportunity to win a conference championship were highly appealing to them. Namely, a much more plausible path to the College Football Playoff.

"Kids who play football for the United States Military Academy want to play for the best possible outcomes that they can. Going 11-2 in the American and playing for a championship, starting in 2024, likely puts you as one of the 12 teams in the College Football Playoff."

The Black Knights were sought as a replacement for the SMU Mustangs, who will join the ACC in 2024.  Army will enter the conference with a revenue share reduced from what full-football members of the conference receive. However, Buddie assured members of the media that on Day One of the football program's membership, Army will have a significant increase in finances, but did not go into specifics. By 2032, Army will have a full revenue share from the AAC.

Army will continue their 2023 campaign on October 28 when they host UMass.