University of Houston will join Big 12 in 2023

By Tyler Tyre, Sports Editor
Posted 6/10/22

 “I am extremely excited for our players, fans, supporters and the UH community,” said Houston baseball coach Todd Whitting. “Our entrance to the Big 12 is the culmination of years of hard work, the amazing support of our fans and donors and our tremendous leadership."

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University of Houston will join Big 12 in 2023

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The answer that University of Houston fans have been waiting for came Friday and its news that will bring joy to all of the Cougar’s fans faces.

Houston announced that it will start Big 12 play in 2023 after the school agreed to an exit fee with the American Athletic Conference, freeing itself to join the Big 12 early.

The Cougars will play the AAC $18 million over a 14-year period as they join the conference. $10 million of that will be due by 2024 while the rest will be paid out over the remaining years.

“Today’s announcement comes with tremendous optimism and excitement. This is the product of many years of vision, leadership and dedication. As we look forward to the opportunity ahead, we also thank the American Athletic Conference for the decade-long partnership,” said Chris Pezman, Houston vice president for athletics.

The Cougars won’t be alone in their move to the Big 12, as Cincinnati, Central Florida and BYU also announced they will join the conference in 2023.

The early departure means that as of now, the big 12 will have a 14 team league in 2023-2025, as Texas and Oklahoma have said they will not leave the conference early for their move to the SEC.

“We look forward to finishing strong in The American next year before starting a new era of Houston Athletics in the Big 12. The competition will be fierce, but we are primed and ready to accept the challenge,” said Renu Khator, University of Houston president. “I’m grateful to AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco and his staff for their professionalism during our discussions. And while I look back with great pride on all we’ve accomplished over the last decade, I’m eager to set the bar even higher.” 

All 17 sports programs will make the move for Houston and it will be the seventh conference overall for the school.

Houston began athletics competition as a member of the Lone Star Conference from 1946-47 to 1948-49 and played for the 1949-50 season in the Gulf Coast Conference. After one season as an independent, the Cougars played for nine seasons in the Missouri Valley Conference (1951-52 to 1959-60) before spending 16 years as an independent again (1960-61 to 1975-76).

From there, the Cougars joined the Southwest Conference where it competed from 1976-77 through the 1995-96 campaign. Houston played for 17 years in Conference USA (1996-97 to 2012-13) and has competed as a member of the American Athletic Conference since 2013-14.

The exit will mark the end of a decade-long partnership between the Cougars and the AAC.

 “I am extremely excited for our players, fans, supporters and the UH community,” said Houston baseball coach Todd Whitting. “Our entrance to the Big 12 is the culmination of years of hard work, the amazing support of our fans and donors and our tremendous leadership."

Houston will become a full member in the  2025-26 school year, and that will be when the school receives a full share of conference revenue, which will inject millions of dollars into the sports programs.

It brings to an end the tumultuous period for Houston after the breakup of the Soutwest Conference in the 1990’s. As they were left out of the Big 12.

“This is a new day,” Pezman said. “It's about our future and where we're going and not where we've been. You tip the cap and remember what we've experienced in our history, and you’ll always have a chip in your shoulder. But this is about today and tomorrow and where we're going.”

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