Big 12 picks Cincinnati Bearcats for conference expansion

The Big 12 Conference has settled on the four schools it will add to the league and the process is moving fast toward becoming official, a person briefed on the league's conversations told USA TODAY Sports.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the league's deliberations.

The four schools — Brigham Young, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston — represent the most appealing options among teams currently playing in the Group of Five conferences.

With the Big 12 attempting to quickly rebuild amid widespread uncertainty after losing Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, the official addition of these four programs could occur within days, the person said.

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BYU is a historic power that currently plays as a Football Bowl Subdivision independent. Last year's team won 11 games and competed for a spot in the New Year's Six bowl slate of games connected with the College Football Playoff.

Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell leads his team onto the field for the first quarter of the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. The Bearcats led 14-10 at halftime.

The remaining three schools are the dominant figures in the American Athletic Conference. Cincinnati reached the New Year's Six in 2020 as the top-ranked team from the Group of Five. UCF and Houston have also reached New Year's Six bowls since the advent of the playoff format.

While BYU has national appeal, the three additions from the American would push the Big 12 into large markets in Ohio and Florida and give the league a foothold back in the Houston market.

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Adding these schools will raise the Big 12 membership to a dozen schools, the highest total for the league since losing Colorado and Nebraska to the Pac-12 and Big Ten, respectively, in 2011.

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