Cincinnati, Houston, UCF to join Big 12 in 2023 as AAC paves way for Conference USA additions

The American Athletic Conference has reached a mutual agreement with Cincinnati, Houston and UCF for the three schools to depart and join the Big 12 Conference on July 1, 2023, the AAC announced Friday. The three schools join BYU as new Big 12 members, meaning the league will field at least 12 members for the first time since realignment in 2011. The buyout for the teams to exit the conference early is $18 million per school, according to The Athletic. 

“I would like to thank UCF President Alexander Cartwright, Cincinnati President Neville Pinto and Houston President Renu Khator – as well as Tulane President Michael Fitts, who is chair of our Board of Directors – for their efforts and leadership to arrive at a sensible resolution to the three schools’ departure from the conference,” said AAC commissioner Mike Aresco in a statement. “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. We wish them the best and look forward to having them compete in our conference in 2022-23.”

The decision means that the three schools are now entering their final seasons in the AAC after serving as founding members. The timing couldn’t be better, as the three teams combined to finish 44-10 in 2021, while Cincinnati became the first Group of Five program to earn a trip to the College Football Playoff. The three AAC coaches ranked No. 1, 2 and 3 in our AAC coaches rankings. 

With the way things stand, Cincinnati, Houston, UCF and BYU would join the Big 12 before Oklahoma and Texas depart for the SEC. While there’s still a chance the Sooners and Longhorns leave earlier than the initial 2025 deadline set out by the Big 12 Grant of Rights, there has been little movement on either school’s part to pay the massive buyout required by Big 12 bylaws. 

Author: Lucy Green