The University of Cincinnati, the University of Houston and the University of Central Florida will officially leave the American Athletic Conference for the Big 12 Conference on July 1, 2023, the AAC announced Friday morning.
“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," UCF president Alexander Cartwright, Cincinnati President Neville Pinto and Houston President Renu Khator said in a 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. We are especially grateful to Commissioner Aresco and his staff for their efforts during this process and look forward to an outstanding year of competition in 2022-23.”
BYU will also join the Big 12 in 2023.
This news was originally announced this past September when the Big 12 invited all four schools to join the conference. But Cincinnati, Houston and UCF needed to come to an agreement with the AAC before they could officially join the Big 12. The three schools will reportedly each pay the AAC $18 million over a 14-year period to leave the conference early, according to The Athletic's Sam Khan and Justin Williams. As an FBS independent, BYU will only have to pay $500,000 to leave the West Coast Conference for other sports, according to The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach.
— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) June 10, 2022
The Big 12 needed more schools after Texas and Oklahoma were invited to join the SEC in 2021 following the schools' decision not to renew their grants of media rights after 2025. That move create a seismic shift in the Power Five, one that the Big 12 quickly tried to resolve by inviting the quartet of Cincinnati, Houston, UCF and BYU. The Big 12 will field 14 teams in 2023 before shrinking back to 12 in 2025 (or earlier, if an exit is negotiated) when Texas and Oklahoma inevitably leave.
AAC adding replacements in 2023
With the departures of Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, six schools will now officially join the AAC on July 1, 2023 from Conference USA — Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA. That bumps the total number of schools in the conference to 15 starting in 2023.
Conference USA will also add four schools in 2023: Jacksonville State, Liberty, New Mexico State and Sam Houston State.