University of Houston cleared to join Big 12 Conference on July 1, 2023

The Cougars are expected to join their new league as the Big 12 prepares to go without Texas and Oklahoma as members.

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Friday, June 10, 2022
Save the date! UH's divorce from AAC and marriage with Big 12 now set
University of Houston will terminate its American Athletic Conference membership on July 1, 2023, allowing the school to join the Big 12.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Welcome to the Big 12, Houston Cougars!

The University of Houston, which already has the greenlight to join the Power Five collegiate sports conference, has set a July 1, 2023 date to end its membership with its current league, the American Athletic Conference.

The date is a year earlier than the July 1, 2024 date, which is UH's expiration date on its current agreement with the AAC.

The American requires its members give more than two years' notice before they can leave the conference, plus a $10 million exit fee.

Houston agreed to pay the AAC $18 million, with more than half paid out by 2024 and the rest due over a period of 12 years, two people with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the conference nor the schools are releasing terms of the agreement.

SEE ALSO: Houston joins depleted Big 12 in wake of Texas and Oklahoma's exits

UH's move, which was announced Friday, comes almost a year after University of Texas and University of Oklahoma, both Big 12 members at the moment, set off a seismic shift across college sports. Both UT and OU pursued and were granted future membership into the powerful Southeastern Conference.

SEE MORE: Texas and Oklahoma unanimously accept invitation to SEC

The last time Texas got a wandering eye for alternative conference affiliations, it fueled a series of realignment in college sports that nearly killed the Big 12.

The departures set off a chain reaction of moves, including the Big 12's pursuit of replacement schools. In the end, Houston, along with current conference mates Cincinnati and Central Florida, as well as Brigham Young University, were chosen to not only fill UT and OU's shoes, but to also expand the conference to its original 12-team allotment.

In a statement by the AAC, conference commissioner, Mike Aresco, said agreements were reached with UH, UCF and Cincy for their departures.

"Under the terms of the agreements and in accordance with conference bylaws, The American's member institutions voted to terminate the membership of UCF, Cincinnati and Houston effective July 1, 2023," the AAC's statement read.

So what does this mean for Houston? It means the Cougars men's basketball and football programs, as well as the women's basketball, baseball, and softball programs, among others, can begin competing in a major conference, something the school has sought since the middle of the last decade.

The implications for UH also means the school can start sharing into lucrative TV rights revenue. In the 2021-2022 fiscal year, each Big 12 school reportedly earned up to $40.5 million in revenue.

In comparison, a school in the American Athletic Conference in that same year earned on average almost $7 million from TV rights revenue.

It also puts into play the possibility of UH competing with Texas and Oklahoma, whose current agreements with the Big 12 don't end until June 30, 2025. Unless the Big 12 allows early exits for the two schools, Houston will be competing in a league with 14 full-time members for at most two school years.

"Reached agreement to exit AAC early to begin playing with Big12 in Fall of 2023 in all sports," UH President Renu Khator tweeted on Friday. "Very grateful to AAC for giving us a competitive platform to show off our talent. Now we are moving on...."

The Big 12's Twitter account was succinct in its reaction to UH's entrance, simply tweeting "2023" with a "boom" emoji.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.