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Early AAC Exit will Cost Three Teams $18M Each

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The universities of Cincinnati, Houston and Central Florida reached an agreement with the American Athletic Conference to exit the league next season at a cost to each school of $18 million.

The schools will join the Big 12 in 2023, the conference announced Friday, as reported by USA TODAY.

The three schools will no longer be a part of the AAC as of July 1, 2023, and will pay their $18 million exit fees in installments starting in 2025 and ending in 2036.

The Big 12 additions come after Oklahoma and Texas announced in 2021 they were departing for the SEC no later than 2025. If Oklahoma and Texas don't leave before 2025, the Big 12 will have 14 teams for at least two seasons. BYU will also join the Big 12 next season after spending the last 11 seasons as an independent in football. 

According to USA Today's Scooby Axson, the AAC has an exit fee of $10 million and requires its members to give a 27-month notice of departure. If a school leaves before 27 months, the exit fee increases to a negotiated amount.

“I would like to thank UCF president Alexander Cartwright, Cincinnati president Neville Pinto and Houston president Renu Khator — as well as Tulane president Michael Fitts, who is chair of our Board of Directors — for their efforts and leadership to arrive at a sensible resolution to the three schools’ departure from the conference,"  AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. 

The AAC added new schools and looked to Conference USA to fill those slots. North Texas, UAB, FAU, Charlotte, UTSA and Rice will each join the league in 2023.

Cincinnati – along with UCF and Houston and independent Brigham Young University – announced in September 2021 that it had accepted an invitation to join the Big 12. 

Cincinnati had been scheduled to join the Big 12 no earlier than July 1, 2024.

“Today is another milestone in our journey towards participation in the Big 12,” Cincinnati director of athletics John Cunningham said. “We welcome this accelerated timeline and are thrilled that a majority of our current student-athletes will be able to prove themselves at the ‘Next Level.’ It’s imperative that our whole athletic department and our entire fanbase embrace this challenge together. As I said before, our goal is to compete for championships on the first day we enter the Big 12. Now that we have that date, it’s time to ensure we position ourselves at the head of the table.”

Three Conference USA schools — UNC Charlotte, Florida Atlantic and Texas San Antonio — will join the American Athletic Conference in 2023, per official announcements on Friday. Three additional schools that have accepted initiations to the AAC — North Texas, Rice, and Alabama Birmingham — did not release similar statements, but those should come in the near future, according to FBSCHEDULES.

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