By Ralph D. Russo |
The American Athletic Conference announced Wednesday it is adding Army as a football-only member starting in 2024.
“We are honored to welcome Army to the American Athletic Conference,” AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. “Army’s football program has an iconic national brand with a legacy of success that spans more than a century and is a perfect fit with our conference.”
Army will replace SMU, which is moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference, to keep the American a 14-team football league. The addition puts Army and Navy football in the same conference. But their traditional, end-of-the-season, standalone matchup will remain a nonconference game so it can be played after conference championships.
Army mostly competes in the Patriot League, but it has been an independent in football for most of the program’s existence. The Black Knights competed in Conference USA from 1998 to 2004 and never won more than three football games in a season.
Army’s football history includes two national championships and three Heisman Trophy winners in the 1940s and 1950s.
Army’s time in Conference USA was the start of a long down period for the program that included a 14-game losing streak to Navy.
Under coach Jeff Monken, Army has found more consistent success. The Black Knights have five bowl appearances and two double-digit victory seasons since 2016. They are 5-2 in the last seven games against Navy.
This season, Army is 2-5.
Notable local alum in pros
Selden native Elijah Riley, who played for Army from 2016-19, captained the Black Knights his senior season and is now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In college, the defensive played in 44 games, accumulating 201 tackles, seven interceptions, and three forced fumbles. Riley’s senior year, he was a team captain and a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, a prestigious annual honor given to top defensive back in all of college athletics.
After Army, he was picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2020. He later spent time with the New York Jets, starting seven games for the team in 2021 while recording 45 tackles and had three tackles for loss. He’s now in his second season with Pittsburgh, where he’s played in 10 games recording eight total tackles and a sack.
As a high schooler, Riley won the 2015 Suffolk County Hansen Award — the top award for a Suffolk County football player — while leading his team to a Division II Long Island Championship and an undefeated record.
Top: Army defensive back and Long Islander Elijah Riley (23) celebrates a Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson (2) fumble in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)