Big 12 officially invites BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF

The Big 12 is officially adding members.

The conference made its expansion response to the departures of Oklahoma and Texas official on Friday and formally invited BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to join the conference. The approval and invitation was procedural; the four teams applied to join the conference earlier this week with the full knowledge that they would be approved as members. 

It means that the Big 12 now has a strong response to the departure of its two most high-profile schools.

“Today’s actions were in accordance with Big 12 Conference Bylaw 1.5.2.b.3 requiring an affirmative vote of a supermajority of directors and was approved unanimously by the eight continuing members," the Big 12 said in a statement.

Each of the four new schools will have news conferences Friday afternoon discussing their moves. They're not expected to join the conference in time for the 2022 football season barring any contractual negotiations.

The Big 12 was down to eight teams after OU and UT said they'd be going to the SEC. The conference was in danger of dissolving if other schools said it wanted to leave. Instead, the Big 12 will be at 12 and could be larger for a year or two if Oklahoma and Texas don't immediately bolt for the SEC.

The two schools are contractually tied to the Big 12 through 2025 as part of the conference's grant of rights agreement. That date could be hastened if OU and UT negotiate buyouts with the conference. But if they don't move up their exit date before the four new teams join in either 2023 or 2024, the Big 12 will be at 14 schools until the Longhorns and Sooners leave. 

That would make the Big 12 the same size as the SEC and Big Ten. Temporarily, anyway. OU and UT push the SEC to 16 teams and make it the biggest conference at the top level of college football. 

All 4 teams make sense

There's not a head-scratcher in the group joining the Big 12. All four schools were obvious candidates for expansion if the Big 12 chose to add teams in the wake of Oklahoma and Texas leaving. 

BYU comes with a built-in football contract with ESPN while UCF and Cincinnati have been two of the best football schools in the American Athletic Conference in recent years. Throw in Houston — a team with a resurgent men's basketball program — and you have the three AAC teams in major media markets making the leap to a Power Five conference along with a BYU team with a significant national fan following. 

Where does the AAC go from here?

The Big 12's move means that the American is the next conference on the clock. A conference borne solely out of the realignment carousel a decade ago is again scrambling to find more teams.

The AAC currently sits at 12 schools in football with 11 full-time members and Navy in the league only for the sport. The loss of three full-time members puts the AAC at eight full-time members and nine teams for football. And there's no obvious candidates for the conference to add either, though SI discussed some options for the AAC earlier in the week. 

Though [Commissioner Mike] Aresco declined to reveal potential new members, the top options are likely to start with UAB, a rising power in the G5 located in the heart of the Deep South. Football success is an important piece to any new additions, as well as fan support and school resources. Several others may fit that mold, including Air Force, Army, Colorado State, Boise State, North Texas, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina and Arkansas State.

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