The Big 12 — facing an uncertain future on the outside of both the SEC and the ACC-Big Ten-Pac-12 alliance — has reportedly zeroed in on four schools to replace Oklahoma and Texas.
The Athletic, citing sources close to the situation, reports the Big 12 is most seriously considering independent BYU and American Athletic Conference members Houston, Cincinnati and UCF. The conference’s 10 schools would need a supermajority vote — 80 percent — to add the programs. If the current Big 12 schools, sans Texas and Oklahoma, vote to approve the additions, then they would not need the Longhorns’ or Sooners’ support.
It appears poaching schools from other conferences is the best way for the Big 12 to remain relevant after the Pac-12 announced Aug. 26 that it was not looking to expand. That ended any hope the Big 12 had of joining forces with the conference. The first blow to that hope was the announced alliance among the Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten.
Those four schools make sense in that each one has experienced recent success on the gridiron: Houston (2015 Peach Bowl), UCF (2018 Peach Bowl, 2019 Fiesta Bowl) and Cincinnati (2021 Peach Bowl) have all made a New Year’s Day Six bowl since 2015. BYU is coming off a 2020 season in which it went 11-1 — its lone loss to Coastal Carolina in a last-minute rescheduled game — and finished 11th in the Associated Press Poll. Other than Houston, each program also represents a new media market for the Big 12.
Speaking of Houston, Big 12 athletic directors and presidents have reportedly had more debate regarding its inclusion; The Athletic reports the Big 12 is willing to set aside past differences and include the program as part of a decision that’s best for the conference’s long-term future.
Regardless, it’s uncertain when the conference would attempt to add the four programs. Oklahoma and Texas are set, for now, to join the SEC in 2025, though it’s feasible those teams could join as early as the 2023 season if they follow current Big 12 bylaws.
According to a report by Matt Brown of Extra Points, the AAC requires a 27-month notice and $10 million exit fee to leave the conference, a potential hurdle to Houston, Cincinnati and UCF joining the Big 12.
In case anybody is wondering, the AAC confirmed to me that current league bylaws require a school to give 27 months notice and pay a $10 million exit fee if they plan to leave the league.
Like with UConn, an earlier departure would likely become more expensive.
— Matt Brown (@MattBrownEP) September 2, 2021
The Athletic reports other schools are in consideration to join the Big 12’s ranks but decision-makers are trying not to rush any decision. Still, it appears as though the conference sees expansion as a necessity.