So much for the Big 12 taking its time to expand.
According to Sports Illustrated, the conference is expected to add BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF as soon as next week. While the schools wouldn't join until at least 2023, they could apply for membership ahead of a Sep. 10 Big 12 meeting. The conference could then formally approve the applications at the meeting.
The SI report contradicts reporting that emerged earlier in the week that indicated the conference wouldn't be moving quickly to add teams. And the Big 12's expansion speed could set up a scenario where the conference has more than 12 members for a season or two.
Oklahoma and Texas aren't set to leave the Big 12 until after the 2024 season. That is, of course, dependent on any buyout the two schools negotiate with the conference. But assuming that they don't set up an earlier exit, OU and UT could be in the conference with the four new members before they leave for the SEC.
If the Big 12 adds teams before the two leave it would have 14 teams. OU and UT dropped the Big 12 to eight remaining teams when they announced they'd be leaving for the SEC.
The timeline is fluid and has been described as optimistic, but not unrealistic. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has even gone on site visits, most recently taking a trip to meet with Houston officials on Thursday.
Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel said on Twitter earlier Friday that the situation was fluid with the Big 12 if Texas and Oklahoma negotiate an exit before the scheduled date. His entire Twitter thread is worth reading.
The feel in the group if Big 12 schools is there’s good solidarity. There’s optimism that of this new version build up, it could be competitive with the PAC-12. The huge variable here remains OU-Texas. Everything can change if they move earlier.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) September 3, 2021
BYU is currently an independent in football and is a member of the West Coast Conference in basketball. The other three schools are members of the American Athletic Conference, a conference that was cobbled together after the Big East collapsed in the previous round of conference expansion a decade ago.
Adding the three AAC schools would drop the conference to eight full-time members and nine in football as Navy is a football-only member and solidify the Big 12's status as a Power Five conference.