BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston Reportedly Frontrunners in Big 12 Expansion

September 2, 2021

With other Power conferences closing their boarders to potential Big 12 defectors (at least for now), Big 12 expansion talks continue to ramp up.

BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston are the leading contenders in those talks, according to The Athletic’s Max Olson, as the league has a current preference of adding four new members to get back up to 12 schools.

With OU and Texas already eyeing a move to the SEC that is, for now, expected to happen in the summer of 2025, there was a popular thought that the Big 12’s end was imminent. The Pac-12 announced it would not expand “at this time” after the announcement of a three-league alliance among the Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC. This seemed to galvanize the Big 12’s remaining members for the time being.

The Athletic reported that BYU was a seriously being discussed as a potential expansion candidate last week, citing its large fan base and TV viewership as reasons.

UCF, Cincinnati and Houston were among the schools expected to also be considered along with Memphis, Boise State and SMU, but according to Olson, the Cougars, Knights, Bearcats and Cougars (again) have an early lead.

Adding BYU would likely be easier than the other three, as BYU is a football independent with its other sports playing in the West Coast Conference. The other three schools are all members of the American Athletic Conference and are three of the league’s premier programs.

Cincinnati had success on the gridiron in the Big East, winning at least 10 games in the five of the eight years it was in the league. The Bearcats have found renewed success under Luke Fickell, going a combined 31-6 in the past three seasons. Cincinnati went 9-1 last season, suffering its only defeat to Georgia in the Peach Bowl.

UCF has a huge enrollment — about 66,000. In Orlando, Florida, it would also allow the Big 12 into another football-loving state. On the field, UCF has been among the best Group of Five programs in the country in recent years. Since 2013, the Knights have been to two Fiesta Bowls and a Peach Bowl. They finished that Peach Bowl 2017 season 13-0.

Houston would further imprint the Big 12’s footprint in the Lone Star State. The Cougars have hit a few speed bumps on the field during the transition from Tom Herman to Major Applewhite to Dana Holgersen, but Houston did win the Peach Bowl after the 2013 season.

It would require a super majority vote for the Big 12 to send out an invite to a new school. With OU and UT still in the Big 12, that means the remaining eight schools would have to agree on which schools to send invites out to.

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