• Notre Dame, Army, BYU lone independents left in top division
  • AAC adding East, West Divisions and first title game

The U.S. Naval Academy’s football team is joining the American Athletic Conference, ending a 135-year run of independence.

Navy became the 12th football-playing member of the AAC. It will remain a part of the Patriot League for other sports.

“The American Athletic Conference provides us a unique reach and exposure to different parts of the country, as well as the athletic parity we’re looking for on the football field,” Vice Admiral Ted Carter, superintendent of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, said in an e-mailed statement. “I speak on behalf of the entire academy when I say we are thrilled to be a part of this conference.”

The Navy football program, once among the nation’s best, has produced two Heisman Trophy winners and 23 consensus All-Americans. The team began play in 1879 and won its lone national title in 1926.

With the addition of Navy, the AAC will move to two six-team divisions with a Dec. 5 title game. The East Division will consist of Central Florida, Cincinnati, UConn, East Carolina, South Florida and Temple; the West Division is Navy, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane and Tulsa.

The move leaves Notre Dame, BYU and Army as the only independent teams left in the NCAA’s top division.

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