The University of Houston today reached an exit agreement with the American Athletic Conference to end its decade-long membership on July 1, 2023, setting the stage for the Cougars to join the Big 12 Conference next fall.
The move opens the door for Houston to begin Big 12 competition in all sports in the 2023-24 academic year. Last September, the Big 12 presidents voted to expand the league with four schools. In addition to the Cougars, accepting invitations were the University of Cincinnati, University of Central Florida (UCF) and Brigham Young University (BYU).
“We look forward to finishing strong in The American next year before starting a new era of Houston Athletics in the Big 12. The competition will be fierce, but we are primed and ready to accept the challenge,” said Renu Khator, University of Houston president. “I’m grateful to AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco and his staff for their professionalism during our discussions. And while I look back with great pride on all we’ve accomplished over the last decade, I’m eager to set the bar even higher.”
“Today’s announcement comes with tremendous optimism and excitement. This is the product of many years of vision, leadership and dedication. As we look forward to the opportunity ahead, we also thank the American Athletic Conference for the decade-long partnership,” said Chris Pezman, Houston vice president for athletics.
Houston currently fields 17 sport programs with seven on the men's side (baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf and track & field) and 10 on the women's side (basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field and volleyball).
During its athletics history, Houston has recorded 162 conference championships with 17 NCAA team national championships and 68 NCAA individual national crowns. The Big 12 Conference will be the seventh league Houston Athletics competes in during its award-winning history.
Houston began athletics competition as a member of the Lone Star Conference from 1946-47 to 1948-49 and played for the 1949-50 season in the Gulf Coast Conference. After one season as an independent, the Cougars played for nine seasons in the Missouri Valley Conference (1951-52 to 1959-60) before spending 16 years as an independent again (1960-61 to 1975-76).
From there, the Cougars joined the Southwest Conference where it competed from 1976-77 through the 1995-96 campaign. Houston played for 17 years in Conference USA (1996-97 to 2012-13) and has competed as a member of the American Athletic Conference since 2013-14.