Most people expected the three AAC teams, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF, to leave the AAC as quickly as possible once it was announced they were leaving for the Big 12. It’s just a little awkward to hang around for too long, kind of like when you get divorced, it’s best to move out instead of continuing to share an apartment. So, it’s now official. Jon Rothstein is now reporting that Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF will join the Big 12 for the start of the 2023-24 academic year. BYU will also be joining at this point.
That means that there is one more football season for these teams to compete in the AAC. Oddly enough, the Big 12 will still have the two teams who are in the process of leaving for the SEC, Texas and Oklahoma, when these four schools join. In fact, it looks like the Big 12 might actually be at fourteen schools for several years, as there is no movement expected.
The AAC will be left at eight teams. However, the six C-USA schools (FAU, UAB, Charlotte, Rice, North Texas, and UTSA) are expected to join as those programs leave. That should push the AAC back up to fourteen teams itself. Meanwhile, there are rumors the Big 12 could take from the AAC again, depending on how they like playing with fourteen teams.
The AAC requires a $10 million buyout and 27 months’ notice to leave the conference. However, that 27 months’ notice can be negotiated. When UConn left, they paid $17 million extra to avoid waiting a full 27 months. All three schools leaving now are doing so before 27 months too. When they do so, they’ll have to pay additional buyout money. The Houston Chronicle recently reported that the AAC is seeking $35 million, each.
It’s also important to point out here that AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said, “No agreement has been reached to permit the three to leave early. Our negotiations are continuing.” However, Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger believes negotiations could be done by the first week of May.
This was the expectation. Negotiations are expected to be finalized in the next week. https://t.co/FLg58QHaBn— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) April 27, 2022
If that’s the number being paid, and as of now the exact number is unclear, then the conference will gain $135 million. However, that’s probably not what they’re going to pay. With the precedent set by UConn, the number will likely be closer to $20 million. That’s still a ton and it will be distributed between the remaining member schools.
Now, Mike Aresco and the AAC have a long line of questions to answer. How will this movement affect their media deal? When will the C-USA teams join the AAC? How will the conference’s scheduling function going forward?
Perhaps the most important question is this: is the AAC still the top dog in the Group of Five? How has the conference’s perception changed with this, and how will it impact the current members? Time will tell.