SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) — It is another historic day in college football, as the University of Utah Board of Trustees has unanimously voted to accept an invitation to join the Big 12 Conference starting in 2024.

Faced with either staying with a decimated Pac-12 Conference or leaving for much greener pastures, the University of Utah is moving on to the Big 12.

Following the news that Oregon and Washington are following USC and UCLA to the Big Ten and Colorado and Arizona bolting for the Big 12, the Utes really had no other choice but to seek out an option better than the flailing Pac-12.

University of Utah president Taylor Randall released the following statement:

I am pleased to announce that the University of Utah will join the Big 12 Conference at the beginning of the 2024-25 athletics season

I am grateful for all of the hard work my Pac-12 Conference colleagues invested in an effort to find solutions to keep the conference whole and provide a pathway forward to benefit all of our students, fans and communities. Ultimately, stronger forces within national collegiate athletics and the greater media landscape brought us to today’s decision. I am hopeful the relationships we have made over the past 12 years within the Pac-12 remain strong.

To our students, student-athletes, faculty, staff, trustees, donors, community leaders, fans and entire state, thank you for your support and patience as we’ve navigated the complexity, frustration, and significance of conference realignment.

I am very enthusiastic about the University of Utah’s future within the Big 12. Joining our Pac-12 and Association of American Universities peers from Colorado and Arizona is important to our mission and makes sense, as does, renewing our historic in-state rivalry with Brigham Young University.

Being part of the Pac-12 has elevated the University of Utah and demonstrated our student-athletes can compete at the highest levels on and off the field, our move to the Big 12 will not change that position. I want to be clear that our focus and mission is to provide world-class education, research, service, and patient care. Joining the Big 12 accelerates our progress in all four areas. We are making this change because it helps us on our path to become a top 10 public university with unsurpassed societal impact.

Utah will also get a full share of the Big 12 media rights deal, earning approximately $31 million annually.

Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark also issued a statement, saying, “We are thrilled to welcome Arizona, Arizona State and Utah to the Big 12. 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.”

University of Utah athletic director Mark Harlan added the following:

President Randall and I, along with the executive committee of the Board of Trustees, have been fully engaged in pursuing the best possible path for the University of Utah and our athletics programs to excel. After very thorough and comprehensive efforts to preserve our present conference affiliation in the aftermath of the announced departures of UCLA and USC last year, we have explored all options and have determined that the right path for Utah to continue to build on its tremendous growth trajectory is to accept an invitation to join the Big 12 Conference.

We are appreciative of Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark, his leadership team and the conference membership for extending this invitation. The enormous weight of a move of this magnitude is not lost on any of us. We have great appreciation for our partnership with our fellow Pac-12 Conference members, and the relationships we share that transcend competition.

This decision represents the best interests of the University of Utah, our student-athletes, coaches, staff, alumni and our tremendous fans, and we look forward to continuing our growth as a member of the Big 12 Conference beginning next year.”

The Pac-12 will be left with just Stanford, Cal, Oregon State and Washington State. It is not clear whether the conference would try to add schools from the Mountain West, or just dissolve as a conference.

The Pac-12, dubbed “The Conference of Champions,” has been around in some form for 108 years.

Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff tried to salvage a media rights deal with Apple TV, but the reported $20-25 million it would possibly bring was not enough to keep several schools around. Utah is expected to make nearly $30 million annually from a Big 12 media rights deal.

With Utah joining the Big 12 Conference, its storied rivalry with BYU will be renewed. Utah and BYU have not been a member of the same conference since 2010, when Utah left for the Pac-12 and BYU became an independent.

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe issued a statement saying, “I am grateful to the Big 12 leadership for seeing this through. The conference keeps getting stronger, and we are thankful to add more Big 12 rivals in closer proximity.”

BYU president Shane Reese added, “We are excited to now welcome Arizona, Arizona State and Utah to the Big 12, in addition to Colorado. Having 16 member institutions be a great strength to the conference moving forward.”

The Big 12 will now be comprised of 16 teams: Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, BYU, TCU, Texas Tech, Baylor, Houston, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Central Florida.

The Utah football team will try to go out as 3-time Pac-12 Conference football champions this season.