By Marquis Cooley | Sports Editor
The Big 12 conference Board of Directors voted Friday morning to extend membership invitations to Brigham Young University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Cincinnati and the University of Houston. The four schools were approved unanimously by the eight continuing members in the Big 12. UCF Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir called it a landmark day and the other three schools shared that excitement as they each accepted their invitations throughout the day in individual press conferences with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
“We’re bringing in four great universities,” Bowlsby said. “It’s a good day for all of us, but it’s an especially good day for the Big 12 conference.”
“I can’t begin to tell you how excited and energized we are to be with you and be preparing for what comes next,” UC President Neville Pinto said. “We believe the Big 12 is the perfect fit for the University of Cincinnati. This Power Five conference delivers that perfect blend of tradition and excellence, scholarship and sportsmanship, vision and vitality. We look forward to partnering with all Big 12 members to reach even greater heights both individually and collectively.”
UH was the first school to formally accept their invitation with their press conference at 11 a.m.
“It’s great that it’s the Big 12 again,” Houston Rockets owner and UH Board of Regents Chairman Tilman Fertitta said. “We’re just thrilled what this is for the state of Texas. We love great rivalries, our school has great rivalries and I just can’t tell you how excited we are to be a part of this … I think the Big 12 is going to shock people and all athletics, besides academically, how good it’s going to be in the future. And I can promise you this, we’re going to do whatever it takes at the University of Houston to do our part to make everybody in our conference proud that y’all brought us in.”
“Joining the Big 12 conference is a historic step in our institutional journey and signifies the tremendous growth and success attained academically and athletically over the last decade,” UH President Renu Khator said in a statement. “Our expectations for our university remain high, our aspirations continue to be bold and we embrace this new opportunity to compete at the highest levels in all we do.”
Following UH’s press conference, BYU accepted their invitation.
“It’s my privilege this morning to officially accept the invitation on behalf of Brigham Young University to join the Big 12,” BYU President Kevin Worthen said. “We’re grateful to them for facilitating this process. This is a historic day for BYU athletics, and for the university as a whole. Our mission statement indicates that BYU is to be a place where our commitment to excellence is expected, and the full realization of human potential is pursuit. We strive to provide that kind of opportunity in everything we do, including our core academic endeavor. But membership in the Big 12 gives us an opportunity to reinforce that commitment for our student athletes, by allowing them to compete athletically and academically at the very highest level. We’re grateful to the Big 12 for giving us that opportunity.”
During the press conference, it was also announced by BYU Athletics Director Tom Holmoe, that the Big 12 will split into two football divisions. Bowlsby elaborated in UC’s press conference that following football, men’s and women’s basketball will split into divisions as well. However, what exactly the divisions will be has not been decided yet.
Today wasn’t only about what these additions mean for the Big 12, but it was also about what being in the Big 12 means for those four schools.
“We know our achievements in our classrooms and laboratories and in our community are enhanced by our national recognition in athletic competition,” UCF President Alexander Cartwright said. “This invitation will only strengthen that relationship.”
Baylor and the rest of the Big 12 are excited about the future of the conference.
“We are looking forward to new road trips and experiences for our student athletes, coaches and staffs, alumni and fans in Provo, Orlando, Cincinnati and a few hours away in Houston,” Baylor President Linda Livingstone and Baylor Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades said in an email. “The two Cougars, Knights and Bearcats will join the Big 12 no later than 2024. The conference will compete with 14 members until the departure of Texas and Oklahoma in 2025, before formalizing as a 12-member league for the future.”
The announcement of the new additions comes less than two months after the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma declared they would be joining the Southeastern conference by July 1, 2025. BYU will join the Big 12 for the 2023-2024 athletic season as the rest are expected to join by July 1, 2024. All four schools look to bring something new to the Big 12 as the conference prepares for their first grant of rights deals without UT and OU in 2025.