Hey! How About ETSU For the American Athletic Conference?

Marky Billson
6 min readNov 2, 2021

Note- this article was written on Sept. 23, 2021, revised on October 7, and submitted twice to a local newspaper, who then ignored it. I’ll let you decide if you feel it would be worthy of publication. Since it was written, the American has added six new teams and a trickle down effect has matriculated throughout the Group of Five with numerous universities joining new FBS conferences. Just not ETSU . . . yet.

When East Tennessee State returned to the Southern Conference in 2014, their overall athletic brand improved.

No longer were the Buccaneers competing against opponents with little identity and perhaps even less talent, but they were able to play familiar and competitive programs in both basketball and football and compete for championships in both sports.

By moving to the SoCon, ETSU had moved up in the world of NCAA Division I college athletics.

Now there may be the opportunity to move up again. With the University of Texas and Oklahoma moving from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern, a trickle-down effect resulted in Brigham Young, Cincinnati, Houston, and Central Florida (UCF) joining the retooled Big 12, thus increasing these universities’ revenues, exposure, and opportunity to play for major football bowl games and championships.

Fans as young as middle age will recall when UCF and ETSU were considered equals in the world of college athletics. The Golden Knights traveled to Johnson City for a football game in 1988, and when ETSU announced their sojourn to the Atlantic Sun Conference less than 20 years ago, UCF was still one of that league’s members.

If UCF can leap to the world of major college athletics, why can’t ETSU?

With the departure of Cincinnati, Houston and UCF the American Athletic Conference is now looking for members to keep their status as a conference capable of placing multiple teams in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and remaining as the sixth-best conference in college football.

Granted, leaping from the Southern Conference to the American seems far-fetched, but what if ETSU attempted to follow the trail of UCF once…

Marky Billson

Innovative sports media personality.