Summer 2024

The Big 12 will span nearly coast to coast, with 16 teams, when four newcomers become members in the fall of 2024.

The New Big 12

The conference will expand to 16 teams in 2024.

The exits of Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 Conference, along with the departures
of Pac-12 powers Southern California and Oregon to the Big Ten, thrust college sports into a new era of realignment.

The Big 12, the home of TCU’s athletic programs since 2012, moved swiftly to land a lucrative TV deal to
solidify its status as a Power Five conference.

A 14-team Big 12 will grow to 16 for the 2024-25 school year, even with Texas and Oklahoma departing for the Southeastern Conference. The Four Corners schools — Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah — will join sophomore members Brigham Young, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston.

And the conference might not be finished growing.

“There’s nothing imminent, but I do explore all options that come to me,” Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark said in October. “And if it creates value for membership, both short and long term, I’m going to pursue it even further.”

Until the next round of expansion occurs, get to know the eight newest teams in the Big 12.

Brigham Young University

Location: Provo, Utah

Fall 2023 enrollment: 34,937

Team nickname: Cougars

Year joined: 2023-24

BYU, founded and guided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, brings fans wherever it travels.

The church counts nearly 7 million members in the United States and some 378,000 in Texas. Of the 83,000 Mormons living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the church estimates that 33,000 live in Fort Worth.

“Having fans everywhere and they embrace us as soon as we get there, it’s just so fun,” said Kody Epps, a wide receiver on BYU’s football team. “It’s just so loving to know that you have people that care about you even outside of your city limits.”

Teams that visit Provo find themselves up against frenzied crowds. LaVell Edwards Stadium can fit 63,470 fans for football games, and the Marriott Center is the 10th-largest college basketball arena in the country, with room for 18,987 spectators.

University of Central Florida

Location: Orlando, Florida

Fall 2023 enrollment: 69,320 across 12 campuses

Team nickname: Knights

Year joined: 2023-24

One goal for Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark in expanding the conference was to feature teams in more states and time zones than when he took the job in 2022. Central Florida is part of that plan.

The new Big 12 has teams in 10 states. Yormark likes to celebrate how the conference spans four time zones, with Arizona staying on Mountain Standard Time from March to November while most of the rest of the country observes daylight saving time.

One concern, though, is travel for teams that play multiple games per week.

“If you’re going out to play West Coast teams … you may have to just play multiple games before you return, and I think vice versa if they come east,” Central Florida men’s basketball coach Johnny Dawkins said.

University of Cincinnati

Location: Cincinnati

Fall 2023 enrollment: 50,921

Team nickname: Bearcats

Year joined: 2023-24

Several Big 12 athletic departments boast alumni who have blossomed into the best of the best in their respective sports.

TCU produced the first true passing quarterback in NFL history, Sam Baugh. Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain first starred at Kansas.

Cincinnati is no different. Oscar Robertson revolutionized basketball’s point guard position. In his second NBA season, Robertson became the first hoopster in history to average a triple-double — double figures in points, rebounds and assists. He entered the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980.

Sandy Koufax, one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball history, arrived at Cincinnati in the early 1950s to play basketball. He tried out for the freshman baseball team and pitched for the varsity squad in 1954. From 1962 to 1966 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Koufax threw four no-hitters, won three Cy Young Awards, had the best earned-run average five times and established a single-season record with 382 strikeouts in 1965.

Nolan Ryan, a former TCU volunteer assistant coach, broke the strikeout mark by one in 1973.

University of Houston

Location: Houston

Fall 2023 enrollment: 46,676

Team nickname: COUGARS

Year joined: 2023-24

Houston ranks as the fifth-largest metro area in the country, one spot behind Dallas-Fort Worth. High school teams across the Houston area, stacked with talented athletes, routinely play for state championships.

Now that they’re in the Big 12, the Cougars hope to keep that talent home and give their athletic programs a boost.

“The best football in the nation is played in the state of Texas,” football coach Willie Fritz said. “Being in the great city of Houston and surrounded by outstanding student-athletes, we’re going to make this a No. 1 priority.”

The Cougars’ volleyball team, which reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament in its first Big 12 season, knows the wealth of Houston-area talent could help it sustain success.

“We’re not there yet,” coach David Rehr said, “but hopefully we’re building our brand enough that we get one or two” top high school players who want to stay and play.

Arizona State University

Location: Tempe, Arizona

Fall 2023 enrollment: 57,144

Team nickname: Sun Devils

Year joined: 2024-25

No offense to Sun Devils superstars Phil Mickelson (men’s golf) and James Harden (men’s basketball), but Arizona State is a baseball school.

All-time home-run leader Barry Bonds and Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, are among the long list of major league players who launched their careers at Arizona State.

Third-year baseball coach Willie Bloomquist is also on the list after becoming an All-American in the late 1990s.

Arizona State has reached the College World Series 22 times and won five national championships. But the Sun Devils haven’t played in the College World Series since 2010 and haven’t won it all since 1981.

College baseball has more parity than it did during the Sun Devils’ heyday, but “that doesn’t change the goal and the expectation here,” Bloomquist said. Winning “will always be the expectation.”

“The program is one that, in my mind, is on the rise,” he added.

Joining the Big 12 should help with more exposure on national TV and open a recruiting pipeline from Texas.

“I love the kids from Texas,” Bloomquist said. “Those kids are most often tough and still the ‘yes sir, no sir’ kids.”

University of Arizona

Location: Tucson, Arizona

Fall 2023 enrollment: 46,932

Team nickname: Wildcats

Year joined: 2024-25

The Big 12 has ranked as the best conference for men’s basketball, statistically and anecdotally, for at least the past three seasons.

TCU men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon previously worked in the Big East and Atlantic Coast conferences, which at various times were thought to be No. 1. He has seen Big 12 programs hire better coaches, improve facilities and make investments to sustain the success.

“We’re better than we were 10 years ago,” Dixon said. “Baylor’s better, Texas Tech’s better, so you start there and then make some additions, and it just adds up.”

The competition should remain heated as the conference expands to 16 teams. The main reason is Arizona, which frequently is a high seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The Wildcats were the No. 1 overall seed in 2022, when they edged TCU to advance to the Sweet 16.

“We’re not half-stepping into this deal,” coach Tommy Lloyd said. “Tons of respect for that conference and what they’ve been able to do basketball-wise.”

University of Colorado

Location: Boulder, Colorado

Fall 2023 enrollment: 37,153

Team nickname: Buffaloes

Year joined: 2024-25

The coolest thing about the University of Colorado is the buffalo, Ralphie, who runs around Folsom Field before each half of home football games.

Though Deion Sanders has made waves as Coach Prime, football isn’t the best athletic program at Colorado.

Skiing is king and has been for decades.

“It really is something that people continue to be proud of and are proud to be a part of it,” Alpine coach Ian Lochhead said.

Colorado claims 21 national championships, second only to the University of Denver, but has the most individual national champions with 105. The Buffs count 561 All-America honors from more than 200 skiers, with 322 first-team selections.

While another Big 12 newcomer, Utah, had won four straight national titles, Colorado reclaimed the crown in 2024.

University of Utah

Location: Salt Lake City

Fall 2023 enrollment: 35,310

Team nickname: Utes

Year joined: 2024-25

Public perception is that Big 12 football is going to lose stature as Texas and Oklahoma depart. TCU head coach Sonny Dykes respectfully disagrees.

“It’s going to be better than people think,” he said. “It’s a very good, competitive league [with] a lot of large institutions that can go out and recruit.”

Dykes’ outlook is buoyed by Utah, a perennial Top 25 team that won Pac-12 titles in 2021 and 2022. Since 2018, the Utes are 51-23 overall and 37-13 in conference games.

TCU fans remember critical matchups against Utah that helped decide Mountain West Conference championships and send both to Bowl Championship Series games. Utah lost three conference games from 2008 to 2010, two of them to TCU. The Frogs lost once, by 3 points in 2008 at Utah.

“That program has probably been as consistent as any in college football over the past two decades,” Dykes said. “They just have a good formula for winning.”