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Breaking Down AAC Buyouts for Teams Leaving for the Big 12

With three teams leaving for the Big 12, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. Notably what will the buyout look like and how long it will take to go into effect?

NCAA Football: Houston at Central Florida Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

When a team leaves a conference, it’s never a completely clean break.

Part of joining a conference is about being tied to these other member institutions. So, leaving it isn’t just something you can do at a moment’s notice. Instead, different conferences will have different procedures for leaving the conference, oftentimes involving how much notice you need to offer the conference and a sizeable buyout to be paid to the conference.

Now, three AAC teams are leaving, but you’ve heard about that before. This means that three athletic departments are expected to be following the standard protocol. That means paying an exit fee of $10 million each, and 27 months’ notice that they’ll be leaving.

This would mean that the three teams set to leave the AAC would be out for the Fall of 2024, most likely. However, staying around for three awkward seasons isn’t what anyone wants. The Big 12, the three teams leaving, and the AAC all want this done sooner, frankly, and for various and complex reasons.

But, as there are contractual rules on how to leave, how could this be done any sooner than how things are set right now?

Well, as Mike Aresco has said, there is room to negotiate an early buyout. UConn actually gave a good example of what this would look like. Once they made the decision, they wanted to get out as soon as possible. So, they negotiated with the AAC and were able to pay $17 million to leave after only playing one more calendar year in the conference, rather than the 27 months.

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

That $17 million was then treated like a bowl payout or media deal payout, meaning each remaining team got a portion of that buyout money.

As of now, negotiations are expected to be so that these teams can leave before the 2023-24 academic year, only shaving a few months off that 27 months. So, you can expect all of the teams leaving to pay more than $10 million to leave, but it’s doubtful that they pay as much as UConn did, given the difference in the situations. That adds up to at least $30 million for the conference, and if they were to pay as much as UConn did, it would push $51 million for the conference to be distributed.

That’s major money for the remaining eight schools. Assuming a pure, eight-way revenue split amongst the schools, that’s about $3.75-$6.3 million for each remaining school. That’s major money that can be used to build new facilities, go towards an on-campus stadium, or pay the buyout on a contract that you need to get out from underneath.

On the whole, this is bad for the conference, but there is good money coming to the leftover teams. They need to find a way to invest that money, find new schools to bring into the AAC, and improve the conference so that there is a good framework to build back from.