Report: Big 12 expected to add BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF

By Kevin Kelley -

The Big 12 Conference is expected to add the BYU Cougars, Cincinnati Bearcats, Houston Cougars, and UCF Knights to their membership by the end of next week, according to a report by Sports Illustrated.

The move comes following the announcement that the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns will leave the Big 12 for the SEC beginning in 2025.

Per the report, all four schools are expected to apply for admission into the Big 12 next week and then could be “…approved for admission in a meeting of Big 12 presidents Sept. 10.”

If accepted, BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF would join the Big 12 for the 2023 season, or, at the latest, for the 2024 season. That would create an overlap with Oklahoma and Texas still in the conference resulting in a 14-team league for two to three seasons.

The timeline is fluid and has been described as optimistic, but not unrealistic. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has even gone on site visits, most recently taking a trip to meet with Houston officials on Thursday.

It’s possible that Oklahoma and Texas could negotiate an earlier exit from the Big 12, but that would come at a huge cost due to each school breaking the league’s grant-of-rights agreement and a separate long-term agreement “…that conference members established several years ago.”

The departure of Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF from the American Athletic Conference would leave the league with eight schools. The conference would likely need to add another school in order to play a round-robin eight-game football schedule.

BYU is a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Independent. Their other sports play in the West Coast Conference.

Should the Cougars join the Big 12, a bevy of non-conference games on their future schedules would be canceled. Most, if not all, of those contracts contain a provision that voids the agreement if BYU joins a conference.

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Comments (51)

Sound like four good choices for the Big 12. And I’m sure Oklahoma & Texas can afford any early exit penalties – just ask ESPN or their million-dollar boosters to pony up the payments.

Might as well bring in Boise and USF when OU and UT have departed. Solves one of BYU’s scheduling issues ahead with its annual BYU-BSU game.

Good choices! I think the list might look a little different if it weren’t for WVU being in the Big 12… you might consider focusing more westward with BYU, Houston… and then maybe Boise St and San Diego State or something (not because they’re better than Cincy or UCF, but because I think ideally you’d stretch the travel either east or west, not both, and BYU seems like a key pick-up, along with Houston to round back out the Texas footprint with another state school).

It’s weird watching this as a Longhorn fan. I get that the Big 12 probably hates us now more than ever, and I get why. But when the Big 12 lost 4 and added 2, I knew immediately that it was a holding pattern. Either the conference would fracture more, or they’d add new members. When neither had happened for a while, it seemed inevitable, it was just a question of who would go to which conference.

I wouldn’t be shocked any more than anyone to see Texas and OU buy their way out early. That said, if we stayed long enough to play a season with the newcomers, that would be kind of cool..? Except I’m sure that we’d be the target of scorn even more than usual so a shorter stay may work better for everyone.

Anyway, I think those 4 are the best options. USF, Boise St, SDSU, UNLV, Memphis, Tulane, Navy, and Air Force (not that those last 2 have shown any interest in joining a bigger conference) would be my other contenders assuming no one is leaving the other power conferences, but these 4 probably make the best combination of geography, tv market, recruiting territory, facilities, and general football program upside. Will be interesting to watch it all play out.

And then the AAC picks up Army, Air Force, Boise State, and San Diego State to get up to a 12 team league. Heck, whey not to 16 with UAB (Birmingham), MTSU (Nashville), Georgia State (Atlanta), and Rice (Houston) and become a Power 6 super league in major television markets! The AAC would then be truly a coast to coast conference and relevant (well to some degree anyway). Roll Wave today!

Of the four newcomers, only the Cincinnati program was ever a BCS school. Not even Ted Lasso would believe these 4 new schools will make up for the losses of Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12. FBS is now the Power-4 and the Group of 6.

Not how it works. Power 5 is the name given to the conferences that have the autonomy to make their own rules for their conference. Big 12 is a Power 5 conference under NCAA rules.

Not after the current contract runs out. For 1 year (2013) the American was a BCS conference – then that contract ran out and, as fast as one could say ‘Lepidoptera’ – it wasn’t. The four former Power-5 conferences new group will evolve (with the much larger revenue stream) and will not include this heterogeneous arsenal formerly know as the Big 12. No more big money; no more autonomous inclusion; i.e. Sovereign-4 and The Hexagon Group.

The new B12 is akin to the old BE during the BCS era. Clearly the worst of the Automatic Qualifying conferences but still a clear cut above the non-power conferences. Note that Miami still managed to win 2 national titles as a member of the Big East (and VTech came close) even though they were at a clear financial disadvantage to the super-king programs. And even though the U is a smallish private school. But Miami was able to leverage its advantages (located in a football-mad state loaded with a ton of HS football talent, good weather, and in a great city)

In the new B12, UCF and Houston have the same advantages as Miami and actually are big publics with a lot of students (so a lot of latent support).

BTW, Houston was in the SWC when the SWC was regarded as a major conference (though like the old BE and new B12, the SWC was regarded as the weakest major).

They are attempting to replace the revenue generators of Texas (#! at $223.8 million) and Oklahoma (#8 at $63.1 million) with Houston (#53 at $75.0 million), BYU (#54 at 72.6 million), UCF (#56 at 69.1 million) and Cincinnati (#57 at $68.8 million). That represents a reduction of 73.8% in revenue. It’s not going to work. When the current contract is done in 2025 – so too will be the Big 12.

Obviously, you’re not going to be able to replace Texas and OU completely, just like the old BE couldn’t replace Miami and VTech completely. But the old BE didn’t collapse right after Miami and VTech left either, so I don’t see the B12 being “done” any time soon.

After the 2025 season, the current college football playoff contract comes to an end – so will the Big 12.

The current playoff contract will end at that point but why would the B12 end then?

If anything, the B12 champ would have an easier time making the playoffs.

The Big 12 is headed to the land of the Hexagon Group (i.e. 80% of the new contract money going to the Big 10, the ACC, the PAC-12 and the SEC and the remaining 20% will be divided among the rest of the 6 FBS conferences.) Playoffs or no playoffs that is too large of a pay cut to remain viable. Some constituents will escape but the conference, itself, will pass into antiquity.

That’s a silly prediction that’s not consistent with history.

How many times has the American been raised? Yet it still exists.

Heck, even the WAC still exists.

First, with the exception of 1-year, it was the Big East that was the BCS conference. (Last time I looked about the Big East does play football anymore. i.e. it doesn’t exist!)

Secondly, other than Temple, no other former-BCS identified school remains a member of the American.
Why is that? ans: They could not fund their athletic departments at the proposed ridiculously reduced shared revenue level that conference was offered to operate with and with which the American still currently operates. (e.g. UConn found it so hopeless to operate even close to solvency, that it ordered its football program to commit suicide and went back to the basketball program friendly Big East Conference.)

In the land of autonomous conference financial structure – they have ceased to exist.

As far as the WAC, they are not an FBS conference; generate very little (if any) revenue and; depends upon the small pittance that the NCAA revenue distributes to conference to generate any money.

The Big East football still exists, Spencer. They just changed their name to the American and sold the Big East name to the Catholic Basketball 8 that split away.

The current annual TV contracts for the Power-5 conferences (per school pay) in increasing order are; the Big 12 gets $409.2 million; the ACC gets $496.7 million; the PAC-12 gets $533.8 million; the SEC gets $728.9 million and; the Big 10 gets 768.9 million.

Commissioner Bowlsby informed the Big 12 constituency that after Texas and Oklahoma exit the conference, they will receive approximately half their current value (i.e. ~$200 million for eight schools-plus). Adding more schools is not going to restore the eight remnants to their full value (which incidentally to point out was ranked last into total income and 4th when dispensed to all the members). There is nothing they can do that will allow them to survive as a power conference.

The Big East was a BCS conference. It was paid BCS TV revenue. When the realignment occurred and the creation of the Power-5 came forth, it was offered an annual contract of $7.56 million per school per year. Because that number was unsustainable, they all scrabbled for an escape route. Five made it out (Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse and West Virginia) and three did not (Cincinnati, South Florida and UConn). The new 12 (now 11) school conference that formed around these three remnants was named the American Athletic Conference. It is paid $83.3 million annually ($7.57 per school) far below its old revenue and far below the new autonomous power conference. It ceased to be a major conference. The Big East name was owned by the bulk of the conference’s membership, none of whom played football.

The Big 12 (name change or not) for all intent and purpose will cease operations and pass into antiquity.

UCF is a big mistake to join the Big 12 IMO. I would invite Rice from Conference USA instead. The Bayou Bucket Rivalry between Rice and Houston should be a conference game again. UCF must stay in the American to keep its rivalry with in-state foe South Florida intact. That is just my opinion.

The new Big 12 divisions would be as follows:
North Division: BYU, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, and West Virginia
South Division: Baylor, Houston, Rice, Oklahoma State, TCU, and Texas Tech


So, the knock on the Big 12 for a long time was that West Virginia didn’t fit because they were so far away from everyone else in the conference.

So now you add BYU and UCF, two other schools seemingly a great distance from the rest of the conference.

It makes no sense.

Sure, those schools add to the footprint of the conference and they are respectable football schools for the most part, but do they add enough to justify the added expense it will take to have them as members of the conference?

I like Houston being added and Cincinnati makes sense because it corrects the West Virginia issue, but now you have two schools in the same spot you got knocked for putting West Virginia in all these years.

Is that really what the Big 12 was getting knocked for? Limited or squandered expansion opportunities, sure. A conference with limited/shrinking media markets with the loss of teams? Yup. A conference with only a couple of premier programs? Yeah. 10 members instead of having 12 like the name suggests, yeah that didn’t help either.

Look, I think I’m an ideal world they would pick either east or west and expand that direction. But WVU was already added, so that covered eastward. And maybe they should have stuck with that and put Memphis or Tulane or Navy instead BYU. But BYU brings attributes that probably go beyond just travel costs. And while, yeah, the rest of the conf will have to adapt to going to Provo sometimes, it’s honestly more work/money/travel time for BYU and UCF as opposed to any other members. If they’re willing to commit to those away trips, then why shouldn’t teams that have to make them every other year or less be ok with them?

If you think about how divisions could line up, I imagine schools will either be in a division with BYU or UCF, not both. And they’ll get to try their luck at recruiting in FL or negotiating their media contract by emphasizing how big and wide-spread BYU’s fan base is.

Western Division

Oklahoma State
Texas Tech

Eastern Division

Central Florida
Iowa State
Kansas State
West Virginia

Anyway, in an ideal world, all the conferences would focus more on regional rivalries and we’d have a governing body that helped make sure that non conference games were more interesting matchups between the conference. We’d have a better playoff system rather than the hype/beauty contest we have now. And we may get the latter at some point, but the point is, money, recruiting, tv contracts, and now (the thing that ties all of that together) making a conference that allows players to maximize their own financial opportunities… will now overrule tradition and geography.

You new to the game?

Sure, there are a ton of knocks on the Big 12, but one of the issues has always been that West Virginia was so far removed from the conference. Now you’ve added two teams in the same situation while somewhat correcting the West Virginia situation.

If they are fine with the expense, cool, they’ll make the move. But it’s still setting the conference up to fail for being way too large, including schools that have no ideological ties, and forcing these schools to spend way more money than they should to play against teams that they, again, have no connection to other than the Big 12 patch on their uniforms.

But, if they want to embrace that, fine. I’m just telling you how I see it.

And among other things you misunderstood about my post, I am not fighting for tradition and geography. Those are great, sure, but I am fighting for common sense expansion for the Big 12. While there are plenty of pros to adding these four teams, there are certainly a lot of cons, as well. In the rush to remain relevant, I’m not sure the Big 12 hit a home run on this.

Definitely not new to the game. Been following expansion and what drive it since the ACC raided the Big East, and I’m a Longhorn alum so I’m very, very aware of how things have gone with the Big 12. The biggest problem with adding West Virginia always has been 1) that they didn’t seriously explore further expansion at the same time, and 2) that it’s been rough on WVU, not the rest of the conference. And you’re making a mostly geography-based argument here, I think? So I’m not sure how you aren’t fighting for geography…?

As far as distance goes, is it ideal? Nah. But it sounds like UCF and BYU are willing to do the travel stuff for the gamble it will pay off. And honestly, look at where all they both currently travel to for games. Not short trips. In fact, the SEC aside, all conferences have some pretty far road trips. It’s just that they also have more close games too. The Big 12 can always fill out a bit more to 14 or 16 if they survive, but right now they’re going to go with the biggest, most well established schools with the best TV footprint to try to make up for the money they’re about to lose.

As far as whether this is a home run…? Is there a home run out there they could have hit? Like I said in a different post, I think it would have been better if they’d gone all east or all west (if WVU were leaving) but if they added either Boise, UNLV, SDSU, Houston, and BYU… or Memphis, Cincy, UCF, Tulane/USF (and kept WVU)… would they actually have gotten as many well established programs that they could sell to the tv people? Not really.

Why doesn’t Cincinnati apply for the ACC Instead? Don’t they want to renew their rivalry with Louisville?

The rest of the P5 conferences (BIG 10, ACC, PAC) have said they aren’t planning on adding any more teams at this time.

That is why those conferences have been talking about an alliance together.

Whatever P5 league Cincy does join, they need to replace their Miami U rivalry with one with Ohio State.

I think they’d be happy to play Ohio State every year. It’s Ohio State that probably doesn’t want to play them every year (or even frequently) because of fear of losing to them.

I know it will never happen, but Thanksgiving rivalry weekend should be:
Ohio State – Cincinnati
Michigan – Michigan State

Yep. OSU wouldn’t want to schedule Cincy annually, unless Cincy is willing to travel to Columbus every year, maybe.

Well, state officials are likely to force the series to happen. They are aware that it has been a century since an in-state opponent beat OSU. They want UC-OSU to be the biggest non-conference rivalry for both schools. There’s lots of money to be made in an annual series.

Ohio State will fight it tooth and nail. There isn’t any kind of tradition here to adhere to or buck, so that helps their case. And as others have pointed out, there’s no real upside for Ohio State to play them regularly. If the Buckeyes win, of course, they were supposed to! If they lose, it was to some underdog team, not another college blueblood. If they play Alabama or Oklahoma or Clemson or USC and lose a game, as long as that opponent is having a decent year, they’ll still be top ranked team. If they lose to Cincy, they’d drop more, regardless of how good Cincy is. Is that fair? Nah. But it’s how it works. And as far as there being money to be made, there’s also a lot of money to be made when they play Florida or LSU. And there’s a ton more money to be made if they make it to the top bowl games or the playoff.

If state officials can’t force PSU to play Pitt every year, I really doubt state officials can force OSU to play Cincy every year. Who do you think has more clout in Columbus? OSU or Cincy?

As an OSU fan, I would not only love an annual series with Cincinnati after they join a P5 league, but I wouldn’t mind if they lost to them on occasion.

In college football, Ohio has long been a one-horse town.

In Kentucky, the UK Wildcats used to be the only college football team that mattered, but Louisville often beating them in the modern Governor’s Cup series and their eventual admission into the ACC has made Kentucky a two-horse town in CFB, though basketball is even more popular in that state.

Once Cincinnati joins a P5 league, and they start winning as a member of such a league, it will be hard not to take them seriously.

UC’s home games in the series can be played at Paul Brown Stadium like in 2002.

Z-Man, I have a feeling that you’re not one of those influential OSU fans (those boosters who give lots of money) that people that matter actually listen to.

Boise State could then claim to having the only non-green football playing surface in the P5. Not to mention the rivalry with BYU,

Choices are good for what they had available, but feels like they are falling towards more of an American-level conference.

The B12 will in be a tier on its own as the poorest power conference. Like the BE during the BCS era.

Then no payout from Texas and OU. The remaining B12 schools have no incentive to disband because they want to extract as much from Texas and OU as possible.

What does this do to the Oklahoma/OK State rivalry? Will they still play each other every year?

SMU has a rivalry with TCU and Houston. It would make more sense that a directional school from Florida. I get that they have been hot right now, but there is no reason to think that they’ll be good 5 years from now.