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Big 12 will officially expand to 14 in 2023 after AAC reaches agreement

Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, left, and Ahmad Gardner (1) lead players onto the field prior to an NCAA college football game against Murray State, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, left, and Ahmad Gardner (1) lead players onto the field prior to an NCAA college football game against Murray State, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Cincinnati. (Jeff Dean, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

PROVO — The new Big 12 family is sticking together, beginning in the summer of 2023.

After a year of legal wrangling and adjusted exit fees, the American Athletic Conference announced Friday that the conference had reached an agreement with Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to leave the conference to join the Big 12 in one year's time. Under conference bylaws, the league will terminate the trio's membership in the American effective July 1, 2023.

Terms of the agreement were not announced, but ESPN reported that the three schools will pay $18 million to exit the American a year earlier than previously anticipated. The payments will be spread over 12 installments from 2025 through 2036.

"All three institutions enjoyed tremendous success under the American Athletic Conference banner, and all three were instrumental in taking the conference to great heights, both athletically and academically," American commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. "We wish them the best and look forward to having them compete in our conference in 2022-23."

The three American schools will join BYU, an FBS football independent that reportedly paid a $500,000 exit fee under league bylaws for its other sports to leave the West Coast Conference, in joining the Big 12 beginning July 1, 2023. The new quartet will also join Texas and Oklahoma, which are set to remain in the league until 2025 before departing for the Southeastern Conference — unless an exit strategy of their own can be procured to depart early.

At the very least, a departure before 2024 seems unlikely, according to multiple reports from Texas, Oklahoma and SEC country.

The four new schools were largely expected to join together, though some doubts were cast in recent weeks, including outgoing Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby using the word "aspirationally" to describe the AAC trio's exit saga.

Aspiration, no more; it's now official.

The American will add UAB, FAU, Charlotte, North Texas, Rice and UT San Antonio from Conference USA, with Charlotte and UTSA announcing that they would join the league July 1, 2023. The other schools are expected to follow, according to multiple reports.

"It has been a privilege for our universities to compete at the highest level in the American Athletic Conference where our programs have grown and flourished, both athletically and academically," UCF president Alexander Cartwright, Cincinnati president Neville Pinto and Houston president Renu Khator said in a joint statement. "To be part of The American's climb to national prominence in recent years is something we'll always look back on with great pride. We are especially grateful to Commissioner Aresco and his staff for their efforts during this process and look forward to an outstanding year of competition in 2022-23."

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A proud graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Walker has covered BYU for KSL.com since 2015, while also mixing in prep sports, education, and anything else his editors assign him to do.

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