The Cincinnati Bearcats announced on Friday that they have accepted the Big 12 Conference’s invitation to join the league.
The announcement came shortly after the Big 12 Conference publicly extended invitations to BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to join the conference. The release came from Cincinnati athletic director John Cunningham.
The invitation won’t help the Bearcat football team this year, in terms of College Football Playoff access, as they are No. 7 in the Associated Press poll. But it represents a significant step for its football program and overall athletics program.
In 2020, the Bearcats went undefeated in the regular season, going 9-0, and winning the American Athletic Conference title. They lost to Georgia in the Peach Bowl, their first appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl game since the 2009 Sugar Bowl.
The Bearcats joined the AAC in 2013 after the breakup of the Big East Conference, which saw its football-playing members join other conferences and its basketball-only members retaining the Big East name.
The move will also reunite the Bearcats in basketball with their former head coach, Bob Huggins, who is now at West Virginia.
As a football program, the Bearcats were also previously members of the Mid-American Conference, the Missouri Valley Conference and Conference USA.
“Our student-athletes are at the center of our decision, and this move will allow Cincinnati’s best and brightest to compete where they belong: On the biggest stages of collegiate athletics,” Cunningham wrote in the release. “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, such as Kansas’s Allen Fieldhouse, a cathedral of basketball where Oscar Robertson’s 56 points still stand as an arena record more than six decades later. We will rekindle an old Big East rivalry with West Virginia, and we will create new ones with our peers in Texas and elsewhere. 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.”
Per reports this week, the Knights, like Houston and Cincinnati, must give the AAC 27 months’ notice before leaving for another conference. That may make it difficult for the Bearcats to join the Big 12 in the fall of 2023, as that is 24 months from now.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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