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It’s Official: UCF to Join the Big 12 in July 2023

UCF, Cincinnati and Houston reach buyout agreement with The American

UCF Big 12 logo
UCF is officially joining the Big 12 on July 1st, 2023
Photo: Derek Warden | @DampFrijoles

The UCF Knights will be leaving the American Athletic Conference and joining the Big 12 Conference on July 1st, 2023.

The rumor mill can stop churning. The agreements have been made. The ink is dry. Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief.

Negotiations between the AAC and UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston took months to figure out, but they finally did it.

“The main thing for the ADs, I’m not speaking on behalf of those, is just trying to give your fanbase, your student-athletes, your coaches, your key stakeholders, your alumni, everybody that’s involved in your program, some definitive timetables now when you’re entering,” UCF Athletic Director Terry Mohajir said.

Gus Malzahn Terry Mohajir Marc Daniels UCF Press Conference
UCF Athletic Director Terry Mohajir
Image Courtesy: UCF Athletics

The settled-on buyout is $18 million per school — the standard $10 million exit fee, plus an extra $8 million for the early exit. This falls in line with the $17 million UConn agreed to before leaving the conference in 2020.

What we also know is that this $18 million is due over 14 years from 2023-36. The first $10 million will be paid over two years with the remaining $8 million being paid over the next twelve years, per Sam Khan, Jr. of The Athletic:

“I think sometimes you trade time for money,” Mohajir said. “I think the terms were very fair for both.”

With this exit deal, the schools don’t have to take the full hit at once and can blend it into their budgets. The American also gets a revenue stream for the foreseeable future. They may distribute it like they did when the Catholic Seven left and bought the Big East brand. They might also stash money away for a rainy day to help offset large expenses somewhere. Considering the AAC first tried to get each school to pay $45 million to leave early, the final terms are much more palatable.

The timing of UCF’s stadium naming rights deal could not have been better. FBC Mortgage agreed to pay UCF $19.5M over ten years to rename the Bounce House to “FBC Mortage Stadium”, effective July 1st. This money lines up very nicely with the exit fee from the AAC. This allows UCF to not have to dip into their coffers to get out.

UCF still has to pay to get into the Big 12 though. The UCF Athletic Association will put $2.5 million into escrow. When the UCF Board of Trustees voted on accepting the invitation to the Big 12, they also approved bumping up its line of credit with the university, which, unless it’s been used up, will cover the upfront cash needed for entry.

UCF will also receive a partial revenue share during its first two years as a member of the Big 12. Even with a half share, the school will greatly increase the amount of money they bring in.

Recently, the Big 12 announced that they had a record payout of nearly $43 million per school. While that figure fluxes some every year, the Knights can expect somewhere between $18-20 million for those first two years, which is a big bump up from the $7.96 million UCF received from the AAC last year. In year three (2025-26), they will receive a full share. This coincides with when the Big 12’s new media deal should begin.

So, 2022-23 is officially UCF’s swan song in The American before joining the Big 12. If you haven’t done so by now, this is a really good time to jump on the UCF bandwagon as it begins what Mohajir calls a new era.

“We’re gonna show people who we are and we’re just getting started,” Mohajir said.

View Terry Mohajir’s full press conference below: