University of Cincinnati Athletics joins Big 12 Conference: AD John Cunningham sends letter to All Bearcats

U of Cincinnati Athletic complex from above (courtesy UC Athletics)
UC Director of Athletics John Cunningham

Dear Bearcats,

Our vision for the UC Department of Athletics has rested on a simple premise: Next Level Success

It means success in the classroom, where our student-athletes have set department records for Grade Point Average (GPA) and improved their Academic Progress Report (APR) scores in four consecutive years. 

It means success in the community, where our teams have found ways to give back to the Cincinnati area despite the difficulties of a pandemic, resulting in numerous hours of community service by our students, coaches and staff. 

It means success on the playing fields, courts, courses and pools of competition, as evident in our football program’s ascension to a national power and our alumni bringing home gold from this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Today, we have taken another step towards Next Level Success, by officially accepting an invitation to join the Big 12 Conference. 

Our student-athletes are at the center of our decision, and this move will allow Cincinnati’s best and brightest to compete where they belong: On the biggest stages of collegiate athletics. In the Big 12 Conference, Bearcats teams will host national powers in the heart of our campus, and we will travel to compete at some of the nation’s most iconic venues, such as Kansas’s Allen Fieldhouse, a cathedral of basketball where Oscar Robertson’s 56 points still stand as an arena record more than six decades later. We will rekindle an old Big East rivalry with West Virginia, and we will create new ones with our peers in Texas and elsewhere. I cannot wait to experience a whole new level of home-team support in Nippert Stadium and Fifth Third Arena and at all of our home events.

The impact of the move to the Big 12 Conference will extend beyond the walls of the Lindner Center and into the classrooms and research laboratories on campus, aligning with our university’s drive for excellence in all that we do. While there are financial benefits to our conference move, including a significantly enhanced position to secure a long-term media-rights agreement consistent with our investment in athletics, just as important is the access the Big 12 Conference will provide to our teams. Our goal is to win national championships, and by joining the Big 12, all of our teams will have more avenues to do so. We also will witness a higher level of recruiting, the enhancement of our national brand, and a heightened awareness of our institution across the world.

Since 1819, we have forged our own path, not through circumstance or luck, but through hard work and determination. Today is historic as we take yet another step in our collective journey, and we owe a debt of gratitude: To those who came before us who helped make today possible; to our president, Dr. Neville Pinto, whose leadership and collaboration has positioned our university for this moment; to the current and former members of our Board of Trustees, whose unrelenting belief propelled us forward; to our current and past university leaders, who have allowed for the investment in athletics; to our generous donors, passionate fans and 327,000 living alumni around the world, whose voices have been heard; and to our student-athletes and coaches, whose Next Level Success has become so apparent. 

What so many have built together at the University of Cincinnati over the last two centuries is special. Our university’s almamater opens with the line, “Oh Cincinnati, magic name, I proudly to the world proclaim.” Today, we proudly proclaim that the University of Cincinnati is continuing to ascend, strongly and confidently on a new path.


JC Signature

John Cunningham
Director of Athletics


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