AAC deal lets UCF, Cincinnati, Houston join Big 12 in ’23

photo by: Jeff Dean/Associated Press

Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner celebrates an interception during a game against Murray State on Sept. 11, 2021, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.

The American Athletic Conference announced an agreement Friday with Cincinnati, Houston and UCF that paves the way for the schools to join the Big 12 in 2023.

The three schools announced in September they had accepted invitations to join the Big 12, which moved quickly to a rebuild its membership after Texas and Oklahoma announced they planned to join the SEC in 2025.

Along with the addition of BYU in 2023, the Big 12 is set to be a 14-team conference for two years.

The American requires its members to give more than two years’ notice before they can leave the conference and pay a $10 million exit fee. The AAC said its remaining members agreed to terminate the memberships of Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, effective July 1, 2023.

Each departing school agreed to pay the AAC $18 million, with more than half paid out by 2024 and the rest due over a period of 12 years, two people with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the conference nor the schools are releasing terms of the agreement.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco thanked the leadership of the departing schools for arriving at a “sensible resolution.”

All three institutions were successful while members of the AAC and were instrumental in taking the conference “to great heights, both athletically and academically,” Aresco said in a statement. “We wish them the best and look forward to having them compete in our conference in 2022-23.”

Cincinnati has won the last two AAC football championships and reached the College Football Playoff last season. UCF also won the AAC football title in 2017 and in 2018 and Houston, which lost to Cincinnati in last season’s title game, has one conference title.

Houston won the conference’s men’s basketball title last season and reached the Final Four in 2021.

The new-look AAC is also preparing to have 14 teams in 2023, with six schools from Conference USA having already accepted invitations. Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA were all targeting 2023 to make the switch from C-USA to the AAC.


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