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Big 12 unanimously approves BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston

Big 12 unanimously approves BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston

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Big 12 Expansion Football

The Big 12 will expand by four teams after Friday’s announcement that BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston will join the league.

Texas is a fertile recruiting ground for the Cowboys and having Texas schools in Big 12 allows OSU to recruit that area. COURTESY/OSU

Fifty-one days after the first reports of Oklahoma and Texas’ plans to leave for the SEC, the Big 12 completed its expansion process by approving membership to four schools Friday morning.

BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston are officially set to become the newest members of the league following an affirmative vote from the Big 12’s Board of Directors and approval from the conference’s eight “continuing members”. OU and Texas were not involved in the voting process.

BYU — an FBS independent — will join the conference in 2023. UCF, Cincinnati and Houston, all members of the American Athletic Conference, are expected to arrive no later than July 1, 2024, and could arrive with BYU in 2023.

“Today’s vote solidifies the long-term trajectory of the Big 12 Conference,” Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement. “I applaud the efforts of our presidents, chancellors and athletics directors of our continuing members to expeditiously consider and take this action. The addition of these four fine institutions ensures the continued success of the Big 12 at the highest levels of intercollegiate athletics competition.”

The expansion marks only the second time that the Big 12 has added members in its 26-year existence, the moves of the four newcomers following TCU and West Virginia, who joined in 2011.

OU and Texas have agreed to join the SEC on July 1, 2025, following the expiration of the Big 12’s grant of rights. The two schools have publicly expressed a willingness to remain in the conference until then, meaning the Big 12 could grow as large as 14 teams in 2023. Under the current agreement, Big 12 schools are required to give 18 months’ notice of departure. OU and Texas could face fees nearing $80 million for leaving unless they negotiate an early exit with the conference.

Made certain on Friday is that come July 1, 2025, the Big 12 will house the four new schools in a conference that OU and Texas no longer call home.

BYU’s other athletic programs compete in the West Coast Conference, and the Cougars are in line to pay the conference a $500,000 penalty for joining the Big 12 in 2023. The three AAC schools have trickier exits ahead with the conference bylaws requiring 27 months’ notice and a $10 million exit fee for its members, leaving their arrival date to the Big 12 unclear for the time being.

Oklahoma State counts itself among the “continuing eight” that unanimously adopted to gain four future conference counterparts.

University president Dr. Kayse Shrum called Friday’s news “the first of many steps”, while Mike Gundy said it was the “best of both worlds”. In a statement, athletic director Chad Weiberg — who stepped into his role on July 1 just weeks before OU and Texas announced their planned departure — considered the developments as a move of strength for both OSU and the Big 12 as a whole.

“The Big 12 will remain a nationally strong league that will continue to provide current and future OSU student-athletes the opportunity to compete for championships at the highest level,” he said.

Shrum, who has only held her role since April 3, released a full statement Friday morning.

“I joined my fellow presidents from Big 12 universities this morning to accept membership applications from four respected universities with impressive athletic traditions into the Big 12 athletic conference,” Shrum said. “Today's vote represents the first of many steps to take place over the next couple of years. I am enthusiastic about the future of Oklahoma State University athletics as part of the reimagined Big 12 with the addition of Brigham Young University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Houston, and the University of Cincinnati, which creates an impressive geographical footprint.”

On Monday, Gundy spoke extensively about the prospect of Big 12 expansion and the four schools approved Friday, citing national prominence, television and commercial markets and on-field success as attractive traits each brings with them to the league. 

“The Big 12 Conference has been among the best football leagues in the country for the past 25 years,” he said in a statement. “The additions of these four programs will allow us to introduce our brand of football to fans in new locations. I welcome the new conference members and look forward to competing against them while maintaining competition with our long-standing league members. We have the best of both worlds”

Mike Boynton, OSU’s men’s basketball coach, followed with a statement of his own.

“I look forward to the future of Big 12 basketball,” Boynton said. “...While our league has been the most competitive from top to bottom during my four years as head coach, adding UCF, Houston, BYU, and Cincinnati will enhance that competitiveness even more.”

In the wake of the Big 12’s expansion plan, the AAC — the University of Tulsa’s athletic home — loses three of its largest and most successful programs in UCF, Cincinnati and Houston. With Houston and UCF exiting, TU now stands as the winningest remaining school in the league with 20 conference titles.

In a statement Friday, AAC commissioner Mike Aresco wished the three departing school “success in the future” and pointed to their jumps to the Big 12 as a validation of progress the AAC has made in its national standing.

“Today’s news confirms what we have said all along regarding our status as a power conference,” Aresco said. “The irony that three of our schools are being asked to take the place of the two marquee schools which are leaving the Big 12 is not lost on us. Our conference was targeted for exceeding expectations in a system that wasn’t designed to accommodate our success.”


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OSU Sports Writer

I cover Oklahoma State athletics for the Tulsa World. I have previously worked for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Emporia Gazette in Kansas and the Columbia Missourian. I graduated from the University of Missouri in 2020 and am a native of Mamaroneck, NY.

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