After accepting an invitation to the Big 12 Conference last September, UCF will officially start competing in the Power Five league for the 2023 football season, the school announced Friday.
The Knights, who are joined by Cincinnati and Houston, will be departing the American Athletic Conference following this season.
The move becomes effective July 1, 2023, according to the conferences.
The three university presidents — UCF’s Alexander Cartwright, Cincinnati’s Neville Pinto and Houston’s Renu Khator — issued a joint statement:
“It has been a privilege for our universities to compete at the highest level in the American Athletic Conference where our programs have grown and flourished, both athletically and academically.
“To be part of The American’s climb to national prominence in recent years is something we’ll always look back on with great pride. We are especially grateful to Commissioner [Mike] Aresco and his staff for their efforts during this process and look forward to an outstanding year of competition in 2022-23.”
When UCF first made the move to join the Big 12, the initial word from conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby — who is retiring later this summer — was that the three AAC schools would become members no later than the 2024-25 athletic year.
Meanwhile, BYU, which is independent, could join in 2023.
AAC bylaws made the arrival time uncertain. UCF, Houston and Cincinnati were required to give a 27-month notice to their league and pay a $10 million exit penalty.
By that timeline, the three schools would just miss the 2023 football season. If they wanted to leave earlier, their payout would have to be larger.
Each of the three schools will pay an $18 million buyout over 14 years to the AAC, a source confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel. The Athletic was the first to report the figures.
When the University of Connecticut departed the AAC in 2019, the Huskies paid $17 million to join the Big East in 2020, the Hartford Courant reported.
UCF athletics director Terry Mohajir told the Orlando Sentinel last month that the schools were still working through the negotiations, but he had hoped to have something finished by May.
Despite the delay, the details are finalized and UCF will play its last season in the AAC this year.
“It’s a fair deal and it’s sensible,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco told the Sentinel on Friday. “We’re satisfied and we think it’s a fair amount. Ultimately, in these situations, when somebody wants to leave early, you try to work it out if you can because it’s always better to figure it out.
“The best thing is that we ended up amicably. This isn’t personal. We said it a million times, but it isn’t. You may take it personally but it isn’t, and they’re doing what they think they need to do in their best interest.”
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Aresco said he’s enjoyed his relationship with the three departing schools, including UCF.
“I’ll have fond memories of those championship games and the basketball run when they had with Tacko [Fall] and Aubrey [Dawkins],” he said. “We had a great relationship going right back with [former school president] John Hitt and to former athletic directors Todd Stansbury and Danny White and even Terry Mohajir, who I’ve gotten to know lately.
“I tip my hat, they’ve done a great job and I wish them well.”
The move opens the door for the AAC to add future members UAB, FAU, Charlotte, North Texas, Rice and UTSA to its membership next season.
FAU, UTSA and Charlotte announced they would officially be leaving Conference USA and joining the AAC on July 1, 2023.
In anticipation of the turnover, the AAC reportedly reworked its media rights deal with ESPN. This comes after the league signed a 12-year deal in 2020 that was reportedly worth $1 billion.
Email Jason Beede at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @therealBeede.