Cincinnati, Houston, UCF reach exit deal with American, to join Big 12 in 2023

Cincinnati, Houston and UCF will officially join the Big 12 on July 1, 2023, after reaching an exit agreement with the American Athletic Conference, the league and schools announced Friday.

After Oklahoma and Texas announced planned moves to the SEC last year, the Big 12 added Cincinnati, Houston, UCF and BYU to its conference. The initial goal was to get the three schools from the American into the Big 12 in time for the 2023-24 season. BYU is currently an independent and will join the conference next year as well.

Oklahoma and Texas will depart for the SEC in 2025, though that timeline could change. If they stay in the Big 12 through 2025, the Big 12 would be at 14 teams for two seasons.

According to the term sheet, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF will each pay $18 million to exit the American. The schools had been paying a $10 million exit fee in four annual payments through 2024, and they agreed to pay an additional $8 million -- spread over 12 payments from 2025 to 2036 -- to leave in 2023.

"I would like to thank UCF President Alexander Cartwright, Cincinnati President Neville Pinto and Houston President Renu Khator -- as well as Tulane President Michael Fitts, who is chair of our Board of Directors -- for their efforts and leadership to arrive at a sensible resolution to the three schools' departure from the conference," American commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. "All three institutions enjoyed tremendous success under the American Athletic Conference banner, and all three were instrumental in taking the conference to great heights, both athletically and academically. We wish them the best and look forward to having them compete in our conference in 2022-23."

Cincinnati earned a College Football Playoff spot last season, while UCF and Houston have earned New Year's Six bowl bids as part of the American.

The American is adding UAB, FAU, Charlotte, North Texas, Rice and UT-San Antonio from Conference USA. The schools are expected to begin play in the conference next year, with Charlotte and UTSA announcing Friday that they would join the league on July 1, 2023.