Adapt or die—that’s the choice the Big 12 was left with when Texas and Oklahoma bolted for the SEC to form what many are calling college football’s first “super conference.” NCAA realignment has whittled the Big 12 down to just eight member schools (effective in 2025), leaving the once-prominent football power fighting for its life. Anticipating its inevitable collapse, the Pac-12 briefly considered picking apart the conference’s tattered remains but ultimately stood pat, allowing the Big 12 to see another day.
With Texas and Oklahoma’s bags packed, the Big 12 will reportedly pursue expansion, recruiting BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston as potential replacements, according to Heather Dinich and Adam Rittenberg of ESPN. Of the four candidates mentioned, Houston is the only one that makes geographic sense, though proximity is largely irrelevant in today’s NCAA. For instance, the American Athletic Conference contains schools as far west as Texas (Houston and SMU) and as far east as Philadelphia (Temple).
Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston have arguably outgrown the AAC, a conference they’ve dominated since its inception in 2013. Though none carry the prestige of Texas or Oklahoma, each field competitive football programs, which as we all know, drives the majority of revenue in college sports. BYU, which operates as a football independent, also boasts a strong track record, producing five players in April’s NFL Draft including second overall pick Zach Wilson.
In order to join the Big 12, the trio of UCF, Cincinnati and Houston would have to give the AAC at least 27 months’ notice before leaving. All three would be subject to a $10-million exit fee. UConn, which recently defected to the Big East, bypassed that waiting period, shelling out an additional $7 million for the right to leave early. Ideally, the Big 12 would add four new schools, bringing its membership to 12, the minimum required for a conference championship game in football.