Cincinnati, BYU, Houston Women Set to Bolster Big 12 Swimming

Cincinnati, BYU, Houston Women Set to Bolster Big-12 Swimming in Coming Years

After weeks of rumored expansion of the Big 12 conference, we now know that four universities will be entering over the next few years. The University of Texas and Oklahoma University are each set to depart for the SEC in 2025 (or possibly before), and now we now that Brigham Young University, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Houston and the University of Central Florida will all be joining the conference.

BYU and Cincinnati both have women’s and men’s swim teams that they will take to the Big 12, and Houston has a women’s team. With Texas’ women’s and men’s teams departing after 2025, that will likely leave a women’s swimming conference consisting of incumbents Texas Christian University, West Virginia University, Kansas University and Iowa State University along with newcomers BYU, Cincinnati and Houston. The men’s group figures to include four teams — TCU, West Virginia, BYU and Cincinnati — and that will mark the first occasion in recent memory that men’s Big 12 swimming will include more than three teams. Right now, the group is just Texas, TCU and West Virginia, and prior to 2012, only Texas, Texas A&M and Missouri were in the conference for men’s swimming.

During the 2020-21 season, Cincinnati’s men took second at the American Athletic Conference (AAC) championships, and the women finished third. Meanwhile, Houston’s women, also known as the Cougars, won the AAC comfortably this past season. Houston scored nine points at the women’s NCAA Championships. Senior Ioanna Sacha was 15th in the 200 back and 16th in the 200 IM, and fellow senior Mykenzie Leehy was 12th in the 200 free and 16th in the 100 free. Junior diver Chase Farris also competed. The only swimmer from a soon-to-be Big 12 swimming school at the men’s championships was Cincinnati senior Blake Hanna, who was 28th in the 100 back, 30th in the 200 back and 47th in the 200 IM.

BYU’s men won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) swimming championships this year, while the Cougar women finished second behind Hawaii. BYU has previously been in the West Coast Conference for most sports, but the WCC does not offer swimming, so the MPSF has been the destination.

From a swimming standpoint, this is significant new teams reload a conference that will be hit hard when Texas leaves the group. The Longhorns have been one of the most successful NCAA swimming teams in history, and they have carried the flag for Big 12 swimming. Texas’ men, the NCAA champions in 2021 and at five of the last six NCAA championships, have won every single Big 12 swimming championship since the conference’s inception in 1996. Meanwhile, the Texas women have won every Big 12 title since rival Texas A&M left the conference in 2012. Texas will now head to the SEC, and even though the realignment is completely driven by football and financial decisions, the move which figures to create a swimming mega-conference.

BYU will be joining the team for the 2023-24 athletic season, so after two more full seasons, while the other schools will enter by July 1, 2024. Texas and Oklahoma are currently scheduled to remain in the Big 12 through 2024-25, so that could mean one year of eight Big 12 women’s teams and five men’s teams (unless Texas negotiates an earlier move to the SEC).