The Big 12 is getting even bigger.
After voting to bring the Colorado Buffaloes back to the conference in late July, the Big 12 approved the Arizona Wildcats, Arizona State Sun Devils and Utah Utes for membership beginning in the 2024-25 academic year.
The “Four Corners” schools will bring the league to 16 teams starting in the fall of 2024.
“We are thrilled to welcome Arizona, Arizona State and Utah to the Big 12,” commissioner Brett Yormark said in a statement. “The Conference is gaining three premier institutions both academically and athletically, and the entire Big 12 looks forward to working alongside their presidents, athletic directors, student-athletes and administrators.”
All three of the newest newcomers, plus Colorado, are all coming over from the Pac-12. Arizona and Arizona State had been Pac-12 members since 1978 when that league became the Pac-10. It became the Pac-12 in 2011 when Colorado and Utah joined.
This move is the latest in what has been a busy and dramatic realignment wave around major college sports, one the Big 12 has been at the center of for several years. That began with the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns announcing in July 2021 that they are defecting to the SEC beginning next year. Subsequently, the Big 12 added four Group of Five programs to refill the conference’s membership.
Those programs, including the BYU Cougars, Cincinnati Bearcats, Houston Cougars and UCF Knights, will all play conference schedules starting this fall.
While the Big 12 acted quickly to survive realignment, the Pac-12 was destabilized last summer with the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans announcing that they were leaving that conference, which they each had been members of for nearly 100 years, to join the Big Ten.
Colorado’s defection, followed by the Oregon Ducks and Washington Huskies also announcing an impending move to the Big Ten on Friday, hastened the Arizona schools’ and Utah’s decision to move on as well.
“The financial package is strong. The stability of the Big 12 is strong. We are ready, and the timing is right,” Ray Anderson, Arizona State’s vice president for university athletics, said in a statement. “The exposure and visibility as well as the resources from the conference will help us compete for championships. From enhancing our ability to recruit Texas for football to the Big 12’s strength in basketball, good days are ahead.”
Big 12 and Pac-12 supporters have become something of rival factions in recent years, ranging from sparring on social media to barbs between conference commissioners last year. Now, with some of the realignment dust settling, the Big 12 is celebrating new additions while the Pac-12 is trying to stay afloat.
In a statement released late Friday, the Pac-12 said: “Today’s news is incredibly disappointing for student-athletes, fans, alumni and staff of the Pac-12 who cherish the over 100-year history, tradition and rivalries of the Conference of Champions. We remain focused on securing the best possible future for each of our member universities.”
The Big 12 will spend the 2023-24 year as a 14-team league before Oklahoma and Texas bolt for the SEC. It will take on its 16-team form starting in the fall of 2024.
With eight schools on their way out after this academic year, the Pac-12 currently has just four members for 2024-onward: the Cal Bears, Oregon State Beavers, Stanford Cardinal and Washington State Cougars.
The Big Ten and SEC will both become 18-team conferences starting in 2024, while the ACC is staying at 14 football-playing members for now.