Report: Cincinnati, UCF Officially Apply to Join Big 12; Announcement Expected Friday

Blake SchusterContributor ISeptember 8, 2021

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 04: A Cincinnati Bearcats flag swinger performs before the game against the Miami Redhawks and the Cincinnati Bearcats on September 4, 2021, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The University of Cincinnati has officially submitted an application to join the Big 12 conference, according to Jason Williams of the Cincinnati Enquirer. 

Shortly after, University of Central Florida followed suit. 

Jason Beede @therealBeede

NEWS: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UCF?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UCF</a> officially submitted its application Wednesday to join the Big 12 Conference, a source within the AAC confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel. <a href="https://twitter.com/UCFSports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@UCFSports</a> had it first. <a href="https://t.co/L2TA0iPBEE">https://t.co/L2TA0iPBEE</a>

The Big 12 set up an internal expansion committee to explore a new round of realignment following the departure of Oklahoma and Texas to the Southeastern Conference beginning no later than 2025. Cincinnati, currently a member of the American Athletic Conference, is the first school to officially seek entrance to the Big 12.

Per Williams: 

"The Big 12 on Friday is expected to officially announce that UC and three other schools – fellow American Athletic Conference rivals Central Florida and Houston and current independent BYU – will join the conference.
"UC President Neville Pinto was unavailable for comment Wednesday. Pinto made it a top priority to lead UC into a major conference after taking over as president in early 2017, and he's shown strong leadership on the issue ever since. 
"For UC, all that remains uncertain now is when it will officially start play in the Big 12 and how much money is at stake."

If approved, the Bearcats and Knights would become the conference's first additions since West Virginia and TCU joined in 2012. 

Should the Big 12 approve Cincinnati, it'll be adding a football program that has earned at least nine wins in seven of its last 10 seasons, with bowl game victories over Vanderbilt (2011), Duke (2012), Virginia Tech (2018) and Boston College (2020).

The school's basketball program has also been a mainstay in the NCAA tournament, appearing in the field consecutively from 2011-2019, though it hasn't reached the Sweet Sixteen since 2012 or the Final Four since 1992. 

WIlliams noted the move to the Big 12 will also help the school construct additional athletics facilities, including an indoor practice area for the football program.

The school does already have assets worth touting as it readies for a jump to a Power Five conference.

Per Williams:

"UC's top-notch facilities positioned it nicely to make the jump to the Big 12. Credit UC leaders for having the foresight to invest a total of $173 million into overhauling Nippert Stadium and Fifth Third Arena in recent years. Those facilities have the Bearcats ready to compete for Big 12 championships on Day 1 in the conference.
"UC finished an $86 million expansion of Nippert Stadium in 2015, adding new suites, club seating and a larger press box. It expanded Nippert's capacity to 40,000 from 35,000. Nippert certainly isn't among the largest stadiums in college football, but the state-of-the-art amenities, upkeep and game-day atmosphere have made it one of the best."

UCF, meanwhile, boasts a surging football program that has won four conference titles since 2013, including undefeated seasons in 2017 and 2018.

How many other schools will attempt to join the Big 12 and how many are eventually accepted remains to be seen.