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University Of Cincinnati To Join Big 12 Conference

MOMENTUM Projection-Mapping Light Show on McMicken Hall celebrating UC's Bicentennial.
Andrew Higley
University of Cincinnati
MOMENTUM Projection-Mapping Light Show on McMicken Hall celebrating UC's Bicentennial.

On Friday, the University of Cincinnati accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 Athletic Conference. UC's President has confirmed they will join no later thanJuly 1, 2024.

The University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees held a special meeting Friday to give the university's president authority to take necessary action concerning UC's athletic conference membership. A little over an hour later, the conference's invitation was sent.

“With 25 years of history, 69 team national champions and 702 individual national champions to its name, the Big 12 ranks among the nation’s premiere athletic conferences,” said University of Cincinnati President Neville G. Pinto in a release. “UC’s membership in this Power 5 conference will position us for even greater success both on and off the field.”

Athletic Director John Cunningham said student athletes are at the center of the decision and will allow them to compete on the biggest stages of collegiate athletics.

"In the Big 12 Conference, Bearcats teams will host national powers in the heart of our campus, and we will travel to compete at some of the nation's most iconic venues," Cunningham said. "I cannot wait to experience a whole new level of home-team support in Nippert Stadium and Fifth Third Arena and at all of our home events."

During a virtual press conference later that day, Cunningham said the university isn't looking to add any new sports programs at this time.

"We're happy with the sports that we offer right now, so we have not had those discussions," Cunningham said. "You never know what the future holds in terms of that."

He also added that a move to a Power 5 conference breaks down recruiting barriers UC programs have faced in the past.

"We've gotten in on some of the top recruits in the country, got all the way down the line, they loved everything about Cincinnati, but that Power 5 moniker kept them away," Cunningham said. "So that goes away now and I can't tell you how excited our head coaches were when I had a Zoom call with them and got to tell them officially that we were going to be part of the Big 12."

Earlier this week, the university submitted a bid to join the conference. This means Cincinnati could be moving on from the American Athletic Conference, in which the Bearcats most recently won the 2020 AAC Championship in football and were the regular season champions in men's basketball.

Since 2000, UC has played in 15 or more Bowl Games as well as 15 or more NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournaments. Florida, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin are the only other schools that have achieved this feat.

UC isn't the only school looking to join the Big 12. Other universities include Brigham Young University, the University of Central Florida and the University of Houston. This would return the conference to its full roster of 12 teams instead of the current eight. In July, Texas and Oklahoma announced their intentions to leave the Big 12.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.