By Tyler Clifton, Staff Writer
The University of Cincinnati (UC) accepted an invitation on Friday to join the Big 12 Conference, and 18 of the school’s varsity sports – including football and basketball – will begin competing in the conference no later than 2024. Invitations were also sent and accepted by Brigham Young University, the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the University of Houston.
This decision comes a few months after Texas and Oklahoma announced they would be leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference by 2025. These four schools are projected to replace the withdrawing Longhorns and Sooners.
Under the guidance of UC’s President Neville Pinto, the university’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the decision to transfer from the American Athletic Conference (AAC) to the Big 12.
“UC’s membership in this Power 5 conference will position us for even greater success on and off the field,” Pinto said.
UC’s Director of Athletics John Cunningham echoed the president’s excitement.
“Our student-athletes are at the center of our decision, and this move will allow Cincinnati’s best and brightest to compete where they belong: On the biggest stages of collegiate athletics,” he said. “I cannot wait to experience a whole new level of home-team support in Nippert Stadium and Fifth Third Arena and at all of our home events.”
Friday’s announcement came as a surprise to many staff and faculty at the university, including Head Football Coach Luke Fickell.
“If this is legitimately true, it’ll be a bit of a shock,” he said. “Has it been five or six months of work? Maybe. But whoever’s done it has kept a really good secret.”
This decision also has the potential to grow the university’s revenue and status on the national stage. Big 12 competitors received approximately $40 million in television revenue last year, compared to UC’s $7 million.
“While there are financial benefits to our conference move, including a significantly enhanced position to secure a long-term media-rights agreement consistent with our investment in athletics, just as important is the access the Big 12 Conference will provide to our teams,” Cunningham said. “We also will witness a higher level of recruiting, the enhancement of our national brand, and an expected heightened awareness of our institution across the world.”
This increase in revenue has the potential to help the Bearcats continue investing in its athletics program. The school recently poured $173 million into renovations of Nippert Stadium and Fifth-Third Arena, and it is suspected to launch plans for an indoor football stadium in the coming years.
There have been no announcements from the AAC regarding future steps in the wake of three key members leaving (Cincinnati, Houston and UCF).
Looking ahead, the Bearcats are expected to be the first team in the AAC to make the college football playoffs.