Cincinnati, Houston & UCF Negotiating Settlement to Join Big 12 in 2023

Cincinnati, Houston & UCF Negotiating Settlement to Join Big 12 in 2023 article feature image

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Cincinnati, Houston and UCF are negotiating a settlement in the “$17 million to $20 million range,” which would allow the schools to exit the American Athletic Conference early and officially join the Big 12 on July 1, 2023, sources told Action Network.

The completion of that deal would then allow the six Conference USA schools — Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA — to join the AAC on July 1, 2023.

AAC by-laws require departing schools to provide 27 months' notice and pay a $10 million exit fee. Without the settlement, the schools may not leave until July 1, 2024.

BYU, an independent, will officially join the Big 12 next season.

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American commissioner Mike Aresco initially sought $35 million from each school to leave early for the Big 12, sources said. In 2019, UConn paid only $17 million to leave the AAC early, despite providing only 12 months' notice.

Multiple sources said they are “fully confident” that a settlement will be reached this month by UC, UH, UCF and the AAC.

The addition of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF will give the Big 12 14 members next season, including Oklahoma and Texas, which will be leaving the Big 12 for the SEC in 2025 — unless they negotiate an early exit.

How Does Cincinnati, Houston & UCF’s Settlement Impact Conference USA?

The UC, UH and UCF deal is imperative for the six schools moving from C-USA to the AAC because they must provide 14 months' notice before leaving.

That 14-month deadline was two days ago on Sunday, but the schools have requested and received a one-month extension from the league to the deadline before providing notice on their intention to leave, sources said.

The C-USA schools moving to the American must forego two years of conference revenue to the league, sources said. That amount could range from $1.5 million to $3 million per school, depending on whether College Football Playoff and NCAA basketball tournament revenue is ultimately determined as revenue provided by the league. The exact buyout remains undecided, sources said.

Besides those six schools leaving to the American, Conference USA members Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss, along with FCS member James Madison, will begin play in the Sun Belt this season. The C-USA schools negotiated a buyout with the league in the “neighborhood of $1.75 million” in addition to forfeiting one year of conference revenue, sources said.

To combat its losses, Conference USA, in turn, is adding Liberty, Jacksonville State, New Mexico State and Sam Houston State to its league in 2023.

C-USA also considered adding Tarleton State and Eastern Kentucky. In March, at the conference basketball tournament, C-USA presidents heard formal presentations from both schools, but the league decided not to add either at this time, sources said.

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