College Football Conference Realignment: Big 12, AAC, C-USA
2023 marks a major year for college football. Conference realignment in college football begins its first phase this season when BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF join the Big 12 conference. in 2024, Texas and Oklahoma will join the SEC – executing on the bombshell news that kicked off the biggest shakeup to the sport since 2013. In total, 14 teams will find a new home this year, with three more making changes in 2024.
Below, find every move in D-I college football upcoming.
Find more college football realignment news and stadium renovation announcements.
College Football Conference Realignment: Big 12
After Texas and Oklahoma announced their departure from the Big 12, Commissioner Brett Yormark looked for replacement teams. A few months later, the Big 12 announced the addition of four schools:
Three of the four schools – Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF – reached an exit deal with the American Athletic Conference (AAC) to leave the league and join the Big 12 starting July 1, 2023. BYU played as an independent and agreed to join at the same time as the other three schools. The addition of the four schools brings the total “Power Five” count to 69, up from 65 previously.
Football isn’t the only sport affected – all four teams will play all major sports in the Big 12, bolstering basketball the most given the additions of Cincinnati and Houston.
In terms of football, all four teams have won at least 10 games each in the past four seasons. UCF actually represents the longest drought of 10+ wins among the group, last achieving the mark in 2019. BYU, Cincinnati, and Houston all won 10+ games in 2021.
AAC Adds Six New Members
Despite losing four members, the AAC expanded their conference to 14 members. Commissioner Michael Aresco looked to Conference-USA for new members, ultimately luring away six of the 11 members. The six members making the jump include:
- Florida Atlantic (FAU)
- North Texas
The majority of the additions are to add major markets to the C-USA footprint. FAU adds the greater Miami market, North Texas adds Dallas-Fort Worth, and Rice adds Houston. Charlotte, UTSA (University of Texas at San Antonio), and UAB (University of Alabama Birmingham) add secondary markets. Rice also got a boost from being a prestigious academic school.
Outside of business and academic decisions, the AAC adds a fair bit of football prowess. UTSA is the two-time defending C-USA champion, and UAB and North Texas were frequent bowl participants of late.
Conference USA Fills In The Alignment Cracks
Being the lowman on the totem pole, C-USA was left to scramble for members following the AAC raid. After the six schools decided to leave, C-USA was left with Florida International (FIU), Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee (MTSU), UTEP, and Western Kentucky (WKU). A brief report suggested MTSU and WKU would join the MAC, but that was later denied.
It seemed C-USA had nowhere to turn. That is, until the conference got creative.
Commissioner Judy MacLeod looked to independent teams and the FCS level for new members. In 2023, C-USA will add:
- Jacksonville State
- New Mexico State
- Sam Houston State
The additions salvage the league, making them a nine-member conference this coming season. Current FCS member Kennesaw State will come aboard in 2024, becoming the 10th member.
Rumors also surround two current FCS conferences merging and joining the FBS ranks. ASUN members Austin Peay, Eastern Kentucky, Central Arkansas, and North Alabama; as well as Western Athletic Conference (WAC) members Stephen F. Austin, Abilene Christian, Utah Tech, Southern Utah, and Tarleton State; reportedly are seeking FBS membership. Tarleton State recently joined the D-I ranks.