The ACAC has established itself as the premier college athletic conference in Canada, fostering a rich tradition of excellence. It all began in 1964 when the founding organization and predecessor to the ACAC, the Western Inter-College Conference (WICC), came into existence with a mandate to regulate, coordinate and promote activities in two major areas - athletics and fine arts.
There were five charter members of the WICC at the time of its inception: Camrose Lutheran College, Lethbridge Junior College, Mount Royal Junior College, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. Men's basketball was the only athletic activity granted the designation of "official activity" whereas volleyball, hockey, cross country running, curling, bowling, badminton, and table tennis enjoyed "exhibition" status only. In the area of fine arts, competitions were staged in public speaking, debating and the dramatic arts.
Despite its initial success, the cultural program failed to secure any significant level of sustained interest and was terminated by constitutional amendment in 1969. The focus of the Conference thus became exclusively athletic and, as a consequence, the Western Inter-College Conference became known as the Alberta College Athletic Conference. In July 1981 the Conference achieved incorporation as the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.
The growth and maturation of the ACAC since 1964 has been orderly and deliberate. The five charter members of the ACAC – NAIT, SAIT, Mount Royal Junior College, Lethbridge Junior College and Camrose Lutheran Junior College – have been joined over the past 55 years at various times by Red Deer College, Medicine Hat College, Grande Prairie Regional College, Grant MacEwan University, Lakeland College, Keyano College, Portage College, Olds College, Concordia University of Edmonton, The King's University College, Ambrose University, University of Calgary, St. Mary's University, Prairie College, and Briercrest College.
Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary are no longer ACAC members, and Grant MacEwan University is expected to withdraw after the 2019-20 season.
Briercrest College, located in southern Saskatchewan, is the only non-Alberta institution involved in the Conference.
Similarly, the list of sanctioned athletic activities has, during the same timeframe, expanded from the original single sport of men's basketball to now include badminton, women's basketball, cross country running, indoor track, futsal, curling, golf, men's and women's hockey, men's and women's soccer, and men's and women's volleyball.
National Championships are contested in badminton, basketball, soccer, volleyball, golf, curling and cross country running.
A Conference Council consisting of representatives from each of the member institutions, meeting twice annually, governs the ACAC. An executive committee of seven elected officials has the authority to govern in the interim. The daily business of the Conference is mainly conducted from its offices in Edmonton where an a Coordinator of Finance & Administration and a Operations Manager are employed. The Chief Executive Officer is based out of Calgary while the Conference Commissioner is also located in Edmonton. Full-time staff positions are augmented by contracted individuals who support the ACAC as Conference Writer, ACAC Statistician, and Communications Coordinator.
Base funding for the operations of the ACAC are derived from its membership through a general and individual activity assessments. This base funding is augmented by an annual grant received from the Government of Alberta through the Alberta Sports Connection.