It’s been reported and assumed that the three teams leaving the AAC for the Big 12 (Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF) would do so before the 2023 academic year. It’s also been reported and assumed that the six C-USA teams replacing them (FAU, UAB, Charlotte, Rice, North Texas, and UTSA) would do so at the same time, to prevent the AAC from dropping to just eight teams. However, no official announcements had been made.
Now, everything is official.
The three AAC schools, plus BYU, will join the Big 12 on July 1, 2023. Immediately following this announcement, it was also announced that the six C-USA schools will be entering the AAC on the same day.
Sam Khan Jr. and Justin Williams of The Athletic are reporting that the buyout for the AAC schools is going to be $18 million each. That’s the standard $10 million buyout fee, plus another $8 million each to leave early. This buyout is comparable to what UConn paid when it left early for the Big East ($17 million)
The buyout will be paid over 14 years.
Nothing official has been announced for what the C-USA schools joining the AAC will pay. The standard price is the forfeiture of two years worth of conference payouts.
However, when Southern Miss, Marshall, and Old Dominion tried to leave early, C-USA didn’t want to allow it, citing contractual obligations. They left, anyway, and will be competing in the Sun Belt this season. Lawyers with billable hours are still working out further details.
This could trigger a clause in the AAC’s media deal to renegotiate their billion-dollar contract with ESPN. With this much change to membership, ESPN has the right to renegotiate if they choose to do so.
Texas and Oklahoma announcing their intention to leave the Big 12 for the SEC is what triggered this round of conference realignment. However, they’re not set to leave the conference until 2025. So, for now, things are awkward. Among the games to look out for is a possible Texas trip to Houston, Oklahoma (and quarterback Dillon Gabriel) traveling to Orlando, plus Dana Holgorsen’s return to West Virginia.
Things look to be settling down, but there is a good chance the Big 12 expands again once Texas and Oklahoma leave.