Big 12

Big 12 Adds BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston

Four schools to join Big 12 as OU, UT depart in 2025

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Big 12 Conference

The Big 12 Conference announced Friday that BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston will become members of the conference no later than 2024-25, bringing the league back to 12 teams.

Friday morning, the Big 12 Board of Directors unanimously approved invitations to the schools, all of which were accepted within hours.

BYU said all its sports will begin Big 12 schedules in the 2023-24 athletic season. BYU is an independent in football, but competes in the West Coast Conference for basketball and so-called Olympic sports like track and swimming.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said current American Athletic Conference teams UCF, Cincinnati and Houston will join no later than July 1, 2024, but he "certainly wouldn't foreclose" on the possibility of them coming in a year earlier with BYU.

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The AAC requires members to give 27 months' notice if they plan to leave the league, though there could be negotiations between the schools and that league to reduce that time.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco said the league expected Houston, Cincinnati and UCF to "abide by the conference bylaws to ensure an amicable and orderly transition" as the league considers its options.

"Today's news confirms what we have said all along regarding our status as a power conference," Aresco said. "The irony that three of our schools are being asked to take the place of the two marquee schools which are leaving the Big 12 is not lost on us. Our conference was targeted for exceeding expectations in a system that wasn't designed to accommodate our success."

After identifying its primary expansion targets last week, the Big 12 moved quickly to make it happen. The four schools were among 11 interviewed by the league in 2016 when it considered expansion before staying at 10 teams.

Bowlsby described that process five years ago as "a voyage of exploration," but said the decision by Texas and Oklahoma to leave prompted renewed consideration of available options. He also said the league could someday be open to further expansion.

BYU President Kevin Worthen said the Big 12's expansion study five years ago made the process much faster and easier this time. Cougars athletic director Tom Holmoe said that failed attempt to get into the Big 12 turned out to be a "launching point."

The Longhorns and Sooners have said they will honor their current contracts with the Big 12 and do not plan to join the SEC until 2025, when the conference's current television rights contracts with ESPN and Fox run out.

If they stay, the Big 12 could have up to 14 members for at least a season or two.

"We are were living in a very fast-changing athletic environment and we will be at 14 for a while," Bowlsby said. "We'll drop back to 12, and as there are targets of opportunity or as there are situations that dictate that we would change composition, we'll be prepared to do those things."

With the additions, the Big 12 will be spread across eight states and three time zones. There are more than 2,300 miles between the Central Florida campus in Orlando and BYU in Provo, Utah. Once settled in the Big 12, the Knights and Cougars will both face average trips of around 1,300 miles each way for conference games.

West Virginia still will average about 1,100 miles each way on the road, but the Mountaineers at least picked up a relatively short trip with Cincinnati from Morgantown. Houston faces much shorter trips for its Texas-based foes.

"Joining the Big 12 Conference is a historic step in our institutional journey and signifies the tremendous growth and success attained academically and athletically over the last decade," Houston Chancellor Renu Kahtor said.

The expansion news comes weeks after member universities the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma announced they were departing the conference in 2025 for the SEC.

The move by OU and Texas would have dropped conference membership to eight teams before Friday's expansion.

With the expansion, the four new schools will join Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Christian, Texas Tech, and West Virginia as members in the Big 12.

The Big 12 has been a 10-team conference since 2011 when Nebraska and Colorado left to join the Big 10 and Pac-12, respectively. In 2012, Texas A&M and Missouri left the conference to join the SEC and were replaced by TCU and West Virginia.

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