Cincinnati, Houston, UCF Agree to Leave AAC, Join Big 12

Three founding members of the American Athletic Conference (AAC) have officially settled terms with conference officials to leave the AAC.

Cincinnati, Houston, and the University of Central Florida have all agreed to part ways with the AAC in favor of the Big 12. According to reports, each school will have to pay the conference an $18 million buyout.

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco has taken the news in stride. In a statement released on Friday, he pays tribute to the departing schools and expresses optimism for the upcoming season.

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

The three teams will officially join the Big 12 just over a year from now, on July 1, 2023. BYU, currently independent, will join the Big 12 as well, giving the conference twelve teams once again for the first time in more than a decade.


And the move couldn't come at a better time for the teams or the Big 12. Cincinnati has been on an impressive streak for years. They went undefeated in the regular season in 2020 and again in 2021, when they became the first Group of Five school to participate in the College Football Playoff.

Though Houston got off to a rough start under new head coach Dana Holgorsen, who went 4-8 and 3-5 in his first two seasons, the Cougars had a tremendous year in 2021, going 12-2 and capping off the season with a win over Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl.

UCF went 9-4 last year under new head coach Gus Malzahn, formerly of Auburn.

Meanwhile, the Big 12 is eagerly looking forward to the four new additions to their conference, especially since banner schools Oklahoma and Texas will soon depart for the SEC. Though contracts may require OU and UT to remain in the Big 12 until 2025, many expect them to leave early, which would affect conference scheduling and perception.