As was widely reported last week, Presidents of the Big-12 met and voted to invite the University of Cincinnati, the University of Houston, Central Florida University, and Brigham Young University. The addition of these four campuses will bring the number back to 12 schools when Texas and Oklahoma eventually depart for the Southeastern Conference in 2025.
All four schools accepted their invitations. Marketing deals and league obligations will prevent Cincinnati, Houston, and CFU from joining rapidly, but BYU is an independent campus and isn’t under obligations that prevent joining Big-12 competition quickly. On Friday, BYU athletics announced their intention to begin play for the 2023-24 season.
The loss of Texas and Oklahoma is a major financial blow to the Big-12. The athletics departments are among the most popular and attract a wide, national audience. With their loss, the Big-12 loses two of its largest television markets. The inclusion of four new campuses doesn’t offset the market losses completely, but may present a more broad audience in the near future.
“We have said all along that the decisions about where we play, who we play, and what conference we compete in are about the student-athletes first and how we can help them achieve excellence,” BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe said in a statement. “Competing on the Big 12 stage provides more opportunities for our student-athletes. That’s what it’s all about.”
Houston has hoped to join a large-market conference for at least a quarter decade. Inclusion in the Big-12 will help attract advertising dollars and high-ranking high school athletes. Houston has announced they anticipate beginning competition in the Big-12 in the fall of 2023.
“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,” UH President Renu Khator said in a release. “Our expectations for our university remain high, our aspirations continue to be bold, and we embrace this new opportunity to compete at the highest levels in all we do.”
Cincinnati’s inclusion increases the scope of Big-12 athletics in the north, opening doors to some of the nation’s largest markets. The Bearcats celebrated the decision to join the conference by adding the Big-12 logo to the team flag for Saturday’s game against Murray State.
“Our student-athletes are at the center of our decision, and this move will allow Cincinnati’s best and brightest to compete where they belong: On the biggest stages of collegiate athletics,” said John Cunningham, UC’s director of athletics.
The University of Central Florida is the youngest campus to join the Big-12. Founded in 1963, opened in 1968, and renamed as the University of Central Florida in 1978, the school fits well with the academic research-driven campuses in the Big-12.
“As we strive to become the world’s leading metropolitan research university, we know our achievements in our classrooms and laboratories, and in our community are enhanced by our national recognition in athletic competition, and this invitation will only strengthen that relationship,” President Alexander Cartwright said in a statement following the announcement.
The UCF Athletics Department said in a statement that the campus will begin playing in the Big-12 in July, 2023.