Conference Realignment: Cincinnati, Houston, UCF Expecting 2023 Big 12 Entry Amid Negotiations, Per Report

Friday, April 29th 2022, 1:03 pm
By: CBS Sports

Realignment is on the horizon for the Big 12 Conference, and all signs point to the league adding all of its four future members before Oklahoma and Texas are scheduled to depart for the SEC. Jon Rothstein reported Wednesday that the three American Conference schools bound for the league — Houston, Cincinnati and UCF — are expecting to enter the league in time for 2023-24 academic year as previously speculated.

Rothstein, citing sources "directly connected to Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF," reports that three programs are still operating with the notion that the upcoming 2022-23 season will be their last year in the American Conference. Some logistics are still to be worked out, though that's not stopping the three from keeping that expectation, per Rothstein.

Rothstein's report comes as negotiations for the timeline of realignment remain ongoing, according to The Athletic. Those negotiations are expected to conclude within the coming weeks, with the expectation being the 2023-24 move. The fourth future Big 12 member, BYU, is slated to join that same school year, so the move would bring the Big 12 to 14 members for two academic school years should Oklahoma and Texas stay in the league until the grants of rights expire in Summer 2025.

The American Conference also expects to add new members during the 2023-24 academic year to fill the void left by those three departing schools. The American approved the addition of six schools — UAB, FAU, Charlotte, North Texas, UTSA and Rice — to the conference in announcement this past fall. All six schools currently are members of Conference USA, which is set to lose more than half its membership to other leagues in the coming years.

As for Oklahoma and Texas, whose Summer 2021 announcement that they'd leave the Big 12 for the SEC set off a domino effect of realignment moves, the Sooners and Longhorns buying their way out of the contract early was floated out as a possible if not likely move after the decision was announced. But, of course, it would be a costly move to make if that is the route that the Sooners and Longhorns go with the exit fees that would be required from the schools. 

A late July report from ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg detailed just how much it could cost for the two schools to exit out of their contracts before they expire. The move would have Oklahoma and Texas on the hook for around $76 million per team, according to Rittenberg. Because of that contract, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey appeared to be hesitant about the possibility of leaving the Big 12 early.

“I don’t know that it is possible, honestly, because there are contractual relationships involving their current conference,” Sankey said said last Summer. “But we have a forward-looking thought process. Part of my responsibility is to be prepared when you have those outreach and we’ll see.”

Oklahoma and Texas leave a conference which they were founding members of in the mid-1990s and aren't the first to go either. Texas A&M, Mizzou, Nebraska and Colorado all left the Big 12 for other leagues in the early 2010s.