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American Athletic Conference targets Army as football-only member to replace SMU, AP sources say

The American Athletic Conference has been in contact with Army as it looks for a replacement for Atlantic Coast Conference-bound SMU, two people with direct knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the AAC was not making public its internal strategy.

ESPN was first to report the American's interest in adding Army as a conference member.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco has spoken with Army athletic director Mike Buddie about a football-only membership, and the school has shown interest in joining after almost 20 years as an independent in that sport, the people said.

Army competes primarily in the Patriot League for its other sports.

Army's rival, Navy, is member of the American Athletic Conference.

Army and Navy play the second week of December annually, a standalone game for major college football the week after conference championship games have been played.

The two people who spoke to the AP said Army-Navy is likely to remain a nonconference game if the Black Knights were to join the AAC.

Aresco has pitched AAC membership to Army before, but the school has been reluctant to give up the scheduling flexibility that comes with football independence. Army competed in Conference USA from 1998-2004 and never won more than three football games in a season.

The AAC has undergone a major membership makeover in the last year, with six new schools from Conference USA joining to replace Cincinnati, Houston and Central Florida, which all left for the Big 12.

The ACC announced Friday that it was adding SMU, along with Stanford and California, to the league in 2024, leaving the AAC with 13 members for next season.

The American explored the possibility of trying to add Pac-12 schools Oregon State and Washington State, but Aresco announced Friday that the conference would no longer pursue western expansion.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll