Big 12 Conference realignment is happening a little quicker than expected.
The American Athletic Conference announced Friday that its member institutions voted to terminate the membership of UCF, Houston and Cincinnati effective July 1, 2023. The Big 12 then announced that all three schools will join its ranks in 2023.
“All three institutions enjoyed tremendous success under the American Athletic Conference banner, and all three were instrumental in taking the conference to great heights, both athletically and academically,” said AAC commissioner Mike Aresco. “We wish them the best and look forward to having them compete in our conference in 2022-23.”
In September, the Big 12 extended an invitation to those three schools and BYU to join the league in an effort to reload after the announced departure of Texas and Oklahoma. Those two universities are set to join the Southeastern Conference in 2025, while BYU was already slated to join the Big 12 in 2023.
This announcement relieves some of the tension in the Big 12 as it solidifies some of its realignment timetables. Although Texas and Oklahoma originally stated they will remain Big 12 members until the end of the league’s grant-of-rights agreement in 2025, there have been reports that they will attempt to join the SEC earlier.
As recently as the Big 12 meetings in early June, it seemed the impression around the Big 12 is that they will stick around through the original agreement.
“We know the two schools, Oklahoma and Texas, are leaving. But at the same time, they’re league members for the next two years,” West Virginia director of athletics Shane Lyons told the AP on June 2. “And with the four new schools coming in…they start having a voice in the process. You’re looking at the league as a whole to say what’s best for the league.”
As it stands, the Big 12 is slated to be a 14-team league for football in 2023 and 2024 with the addition of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF. That does, however, open a new set of questions regarding future scheduling and broadcasting rights.
In the meantime, the three schools making the early jump are looking forward to their new move to the Big 12 after a 10-year stint in the AAC.
“It has been a privilege for our universities to compete at the highest level in the American Athletic Conference where our programs have grown and flourished, both athletically and academically,” said UCF president Alexander Cartwright, Cincinnati president Neville Pinto and Houston president Renu Khator in a joint statement. “To be part of The American’s climb to national prominence in recent years is something we’ll always look back on with great pride.”