PROVO, Utah (ABC4) – It is official – Brigham Young University has officially accepted the invitation to join the Big 12 Conference.

The Big 12 presidents unanimously voted Friday morning to accept BYU, the University of Central Florida, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Houston into the Conference.

BYU will begin competing in the Big 12 in the 2023-24 season.

“This is an historic day for BYU Athletics – and for the entire university,” said Kevin J Worthen, BYU president. “The BYU mission statement indicates that BYU is a place where ‘a commitment to excellence is expected.’ We strive to meet that requirement in all we do, including our core academic enterprise. Membership in the Big 12 gives us the opportunity to reinforce that commitment for student-athletes, allowing them to compete at the highest level both on and off the field.”

The Cougars will participate in every sport sponsored by the Big 12 except equestrian, rowing and wrestling. The Big 12 sponsors every sport the Cougars compete in, except men’s volleyball. All sports will begin Big 12 schedules in the 2023-24 athletic season, except for men’s volleyball, which will continue to compete in the MPSF.

The Big 12 will honor BYU’s existing Sunday-play policy, allowing the Cougars to schedule around Sunday competition, much like it has with the West Coast Conference and other conferences previously.

BYU will still compete as a member of the WCC for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons. The school will have to pay a $500,000 exit fee to leave the conference in 2023.

“We have said all along that the decisions about where we play, who we play and what conference we compete in are about the student-athletes first and how we can help them achieve excellence,” said Tom Holmoe, BYU director of athletics. “Competing on the Big 12 stage provides more opportunities for our student-athletes. That’s what it’s all about.”

In 2011, BYU left the Mountain West Conference and began playing as an independent in football and in the West Coast Conference in its other sports. BYU has sought a home in a Power-5 Conference ever since, and now they have found one.

Holmoe expressed gratitude for being a member of the WCC the last decade.

“We are truly grateful to the WCC,” Holmoe said. “Being a member of the WCC for the past 10 years helped us tremendously. All of our teams developed significantly while we’ve been a member of the WCC.”

“We understand BYU’s decision and wish everyone connected with the institution the very best moving forward,” WCC Commissioner Gloria Nevarez said. “BYU has been transparent in exploring opportunities to find league affiliation for its football program and has been presented with an opportunity that fits its needs. We will continue to value them as a member of the West Coast Conference through the 2022-23 academic year.”

Texas and Oklahoma announced two months they will be leaving the Big 12 for the SEC. The Big 12 moved quickly to fill the vacant spots and retain its Power-5 status.

Texas and Oklahoma are contractually obligated to stay in the Big 12 through 2025, but buyouts are likely to happen.

As for Houston, UCF and Houston, American Athletic Conference bylaws require schools to give a 27-month notice before they leave and pay a $10 million buyout fee. In that scenario, joining by the 2023 season would be a long shot, but some sources have said it is realistic. An earlier exit, with a higher buyout, is always a possibility. As a result, it’s possible the league could temporarily expand to as many as 14 teams if those schools join before Oklahoma and Texas leave.

Once the dust settles, the Big 12 will include BYU, UCF, Houston, Cincinnati, Iowa State, West Virginia, Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Kansas State. In football, the conference will be divided into two divisions, which have yet to be determined.

The Big 12 has operated with just 10 teams since 2010. With 12 teams now in the conference, the Big 12 is expected to keep its P5 status.

The BYU football team already has an 11-game schedule, with another against Notre Dame expected to be finalized soon, for the 2022 season. In the Big 12, BYU will play nine conference games and three non-conference games each year.

The Cougars already have a 12-game football schedule set in 2023, but by joining a Power-5 league, BYU will be able to get out of those game without buyout penalties.

Going into Week 2 of the college football season, Cincinnati is ranked 7th in the nation, while Iowa State is 9th. Baylor won the NCAA men’s basketball championship in April.

The BYU football team will host Utah Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium, looking to end a 9-game losing streak to its rival.

Utah and BYU will take the next two years off with the rivalry scheduled to resume in 2024. But now that BYU is in a conference, the future of the rivalry may be in question.

“Being now in two separate conferences in football, not being independent, we’ll have needs and desires, like Utah does as a member of the Pac-12,” Holmoe said. “I have not yet talked to Mark Harlan formally. We’ll get together in the next year and discuss those. Those are dsicussions I look forward to having so I can answer those questions about BYU and Utah.”

BYU does have a full schedule in 2022 and 2023, and in fact some games scheduled until 2030. But Holmoe will have to cancel several of those games now that they will have only three openings a year for non-conference games.

“With each contract that we did from the time we became an independent, there was a clause in it that said in the event we join a P5 conference, there would be some type of a deal to work it out,” Holmoe said. “Those games I think we’ll be able to unwind. People will want to get out of some, we’ll want to get out of some, and there are some we’re going to want to keep some of the games that we’ve contracted. It will be a conversation between me and Kalani whether of not we want to keep some of those games.”