The massive shakeup to the Big 12 has begun as of July 1, 2023. If you recall, Texas and Oklahoma announced plans to move to the SEC beginning in 2025. In response to that, the Big 12 invited four new members to join the Power Five conference: BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF. As of July 1, those four new members, three of which sponsor swimming and diving, have joined the conference. UCF is the only school out of the bunch that doesn’t sponsor swimming and diving programs.
The addition gives a boost to what has long been the smallest of the Power Five conferences for swimming and diving. Prior to this move, the Big 12 featured just three men’s swim and dive teams and five women’s teams. Of course, Texas will be leaving the conference next year (Oklahoma will as well, but they don’t sponsor swimming and diving programs), but even after they do, Big 12 swimming and diving will still have more members than they did prior to these three new teams joining the conference.
Here is a look at the swimming and diving programs within the Big 12 now:
|BIG 12 SWIMMING AND DIVING|
Now, let’s take a brief look at the three swimming and diving programs that just joined the Big 12. The BYU Cougars are coming off an excellent season in which the men’s team won its third-straight MPSF title, while the women’s team came in third. The Cougars also had two athletes advance to the Men’s NCAA Championships in late March. Brad Prolo competed in the 200 IM, 100 breast, and 200 fly, while diver Mickey Strauss competed in all three diving events.
As for Cincinnati, the Bearcats finished fifth in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Championships on the women’s side, while the men finished second, but we’ll touch more on that men’s finish later. They had a swimmer, Joleigh Crye, make the Women’s NCAA Championships as just a freshman, where she finished 22nd in prelims of the 100 breast.
Houston, a women’s only swimming and diving program, won its seventh-consecutive women’s AAC title this past season. They didn’t have any athletes at the NCAA Championships and didn’t attend the CSCAA National Invite Championships, however, Houston is a great program with a lot of depth.
These new additions add much more depth to Big 12 swimming and diving. Women’s programs in the conference have now gone from five to eight, while the men’s programs have gone from three to five. From a fit perspective, these new swimming and diving additions to the conference should be great. Texas has long been the class of Big 12 swimming and diving, and they will remain so for another season, but once the Longhorns leave the conference, there will be a ton of parity among the remaining teams. BYU, Cincy, and Houston will be competitive with Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa State, and TCU on the women’s side of the conference, while the Cougars and Bearcats will fit very well with the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers on the men’s side.
Truthfully, the bigger impact from this move will probably be felt on the side of the conferences BYU, Cincy, and Houston left than the Big 12 itself. In particular, the AAC is now facing a major shakeup. For the past few years, the AAC featured only two men’s swimming and diving programs: Cincinnati and SMU. Cincinnati has now left the AAC, leaving SMU alone as the only men’s swimming and diving program in the conference. That’s especially notable at this moment, given SMU has had the off-season of the century, bringing in a bunch of talented transfers while also gaining pro swimmer Nic Fink.
AAC women’s swimming and diving has seen quite the shakeup as well. As previously stated, Houston has won the women’s AAC title for seven consecutive years, meaning the top program in the conference has now left. Cincinnati was consistently in the upper half of the AAC for women’s swimming and diving, so that’s a significant loss as well.
Meanwhile, BYU has left the MPSF. The impact of their leaving the conference will be cushioned slightly due to the fact that the MPSF is a fairly large swimming and diving conference. This past season, MPSF featured ten women’s swim and dive programs and eight men’s programs. With the absence of BYU, those numbers go down to nine and seven, which are still very healthy for a mid-major conference.
While this marks the first of the major shakeups that are coming to the Power Five conferences, it will be far from the last. As stated above, we already know Texas and Oklahoma will be joining the SEC. They originally were slated to make the move in the summer of 2025, however, they reached an agreement with the Big 12 to leave a year early if they paid $100 million. That means the Longhorns and Sooners will be leaving to conference net summer. UCLA and USC are also set to leave the Pac-12 and join the Big Ten next year. There will surely be more of such moves to come, as the Pac-12 will want to rebuild their numbers and there’s constantly rumblings about movement in the ACC.
One thing is for certain: we have now officially entered a period of conference realignment in the NCAA.