HOUSTON — The Big 12’s expansion plans following the departure of Texas and Oklahoma could mean the Houston Cougars are on the move again in conference realignment.
Max Olson of The Athletic reports the Big 12 is focusing on adding four more schools after UT and OU announced in July they would be heading to the Southeastern Conference after their TV rights expire in 2025.
According to the report, the Big 12 is now targeting UH, as well as fellow American Athletic Conference members Cincinnati and Central Florida. The Big 12 is also said to be targeting BYU.
After a meeting with the remaining Big 12 members, Commissioner Bob Bowlsby released the following statement:
"Following two days of consultation with the athletics directors of the continuing members of the Big 12 conference, the eight ADs remain committed to furthering the Big 12 as one of the nation's premier athletic conferences, and look forward to working with our presidents and chancellors to strengthen the league. Future exploration by the group will continue to center on options that best position the long-term strength of the conference."
Adding four teams would push the Big 12 back to its original 12-team alignment. The conference has consisted of 10 teams since the departures of Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Texas A&M and the additions of TCU and West Virginia.
ESPN reports that if UH, Cincinnati and UCF were invited to join the conference, they would need to give the AAC 27 months' notice and each pay an exit fee of $10 million to join another conference.
CBS Sports reports that adding these four schools would create a presence for the conference in key TV markets:
“Adding the aforementioned four teams wouldn't fill the entire void left by Texas and Oklahoma. However, adding UCF would give the Big 12 a presence in the major television market of Orlando. Cincinnati, meanwhile, would bring more of a Midwest footprint to pair with West Virginia. BYU would add in the Salt Lake City, Utah, market and an international fan base. Houston, of course, would help the Big 12 maintain a strong presence in Texas, even though the most prominent team in the Lone Star State is leaving and the second-most prominent (Texas A&M) departed in the last round of realignment.”