Getting to know the Big 12 Conference’s four new members

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 07: A Houston Cougars helmet is seen during the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium on November 7, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 07: A Houston Cougars helmet is seen during the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium on November 7, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

We finally know what the future holds for the Big 12 Conference.

The conference announced last week the addition of four new schools— BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF.

Three of the Big 12’s new additions are the most successful football programs from the American Athletic Conference. Cincinnati, Houston and UCF will join by July 1, 2024, because of contract obligations with the AAC.

Here’s what you need to know about the Big 12 Conference’s four additional schools: Brigham Young, Houston, Cincinnati, and Central Florida.

Although BYU is independent in football, the Cougars’ other sports compete in the West Coast Conference, but BYU will still be the first to join by the 2023-24 athletic season.

Each of these four schools will benefit the Big 12 in other sports, but since it’s September, football seems to be all that matters to most, so we’ll take a look at each new Big 12 school, particularly their football programs.


Records last five seasons
2020: 11-1
2019: 7-6
2018: 7-6
2017: 4-9
2016: 9-4

BYU has been on the Big 12’s radar since the last time expansion looked to be a possibility in 2016, and the university has publicly had the goal of joining a Power 5 Conference ever since.

Part of BYU’s strategy to further its athletic department was becoming Independent in football in 2011. The Cougars’ other sports — including baseball, basketball, golf, track & field, tennis, volleyball, swimming & diving, and cross country, as well as gymnastics and soccer for women — competed in the West Coast Conference.

The Cougars have had a respectable football program for a while now, but BYU garnered national attention last year during an 11-1 campaign. BYU’s only loss was to then-No. 14 Coastal Carolina, 22-17, in a last-minute matchup. The Cougars also beat future Big 12 foes Houston and UCF last season.

BYU has the quickest path to start competing in the Big 12 of the four joining — as soon as the 2023-24 athletic season.

BYU is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which means the university’s sports teams can’t compete on Sundays. This was a dilemma the first time adding BYU to the Big 12 was a possibility, but with things now official, still no Cougar team will play on Sunday even after joining the Big 12.


Records last five seasons
2020: 9-1
2019: 11-3
2018: 11-2
2017: 4-8
2016: 4-8

Cincinnati was already flying a Big 12 flag on Saturday at Nippert Stadium.

If things keep going like they have been for Cincinnati, the Bearcats will be immediate Big 12 title contenders on the gridiron when they join by 2024. The Bearcats may even be the first Group of 5 team to slip into the College Football Playoff this season if things keep going their way.

Cincinnati has lost six games total the last three seasons, winning the AAC championship last year.

The Bearcats also have baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, swimming & diving, and track & field, as well as women’s lacrosse, soccer and volleyball.


Records last five seasons
2020: 3-5
2019: 4-8
2018: 8-5
2017: 7-5
2016: 9-4

Houston joining the Big 12 has always seemed inevitable.

Despite recent struggles, the Cougars have consistently had a solid football program. On top of that, adding Houston strengthens the Big 12’s Texas pipeline in the state’s most populated city, according to the most recent census.

Houston’s debut will also (most likely) mean the return of Dana Holgorsen, who is familiar with the Big 12 as West Virginia’s head coach (2011-18), OSU’s offensive coordinator (2010) and Texas Tech’s offensive coordinator (2005-07).


Records last five seasons
2020: 6-4
2019: 10-3
2018: 12-1
2017: 13-0
2016: 6-7

OSU will have an immediate rivalry with UCF as schools with self-declared national championships in football.

The Golden Knights have not only been one of the successful programs in the AAC the last five years, but in the entire country.

UCF didn’t lose a game in 2017, but was snubbed from a College Football Playoff berth without a Power 5 label. That shouldn’t happen once in the Big 12 if UCF were to ever put together another season as impressive as 2017.

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Adding UCF to the conference not only gives the Big 12 a successful athletic department, but also gives it the Florida market for the first time.

And I don’t think any fans will complain about trips to Orlando in November.