The University of Central Florida Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday to accept an invitation for UCF to join the Big 12 Conference, a move that will raise the university’s national profile and expand opportunities for our student-athletes to compete at the highest level.

UCF is a young institution with strong academic and athletics achievements. The university enrolled a record 107 National Merit Scholars this fall, and the fall freshman class posted a university-record GPA of 4.22.

Research funding has increased 40 percent since 2016, and U.S. News and World Report consistently ranks UCF among the nation’s most innovative universities.

UCF’s student-athletes have excelled in competition and the classroom. Last season, nine UCF teams competed in the postseason. UCF football has won 42 of its last 50 games, which ranks fifth in the nation behind Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame, and the football team has competed in three New Year’s Six bowl games during the past seven seasons. They have posted an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher for 27 consecutive semesters.

In addition, upon his arrival in February, Vice President and Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir instituted a guarantee of a job or graduate school for all student-athletes who graduate. All 48 student-athletes who graduated this spring or summer — or who had already graduated but had playing eligibility remaining —have achieved either a job or graduate school admission.

The Big 12 began play 25 years ago in 1996-97, the same year UCF football moved up to Division I (now the Football Bowl Subdivision). Big 12 teams won five national championships in 2020-21, and they have won a total of 69 NCAA team championships since the conference was established. The conference also has produced seven Heisman Trophy winners.

To celebrate this historic moment in UCF’s history, Knights are encouraged to give $12 for 12 — a recurring monthly gift for the next year.

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To celebrate this historic moment in UCF’s history, Knights are encouraged to give $12 for 12 — a recurring monthly gift for the next year with options starting at $12.  Every gift—no matter the size—supports UCF Athletics and makes a difference in the lives of our 435 student-athletes.

Board of Trustees Chair Alex Martins ’01MBA

“Many of the decisions we have made in the past have been transformative for this institution. They may have been decisions to add degree programs, decisions to establish a medical school and teaching hospital, a decision to add a downtown campus or a decision to initiate what is today the second-ranked hospitality school in the world.

All of those decisions were big, bold and transformative. Collectively, they contribute to the greatness that is UCF today. The decision today also has the strong potential for being just as transformative for UCF.

Intercollegiate athletics is often referred to as the front porch of the university. They provide both a platform and a launching point for universities to gain international notoriety as well as open doors that create engagement, which can have a multiplier effect on the university’s success. Major intercollegiate athletics can also enhance the overall financial advancement of the university through increased alumni and donor engagement, which as we know, can increase the benefit to the entire student body through the improvement of the university and by creating an opportunity for the entire institution, specifically our players.”

President Alexander N. Cartwright

“As we strive to become the world’s leading metropolitan research university, we know our achievements in our classrooms and laboratories, and in our community are enhanced by our national recognition in athletic competition, and this invitation will only strengthen that relationship.

We are a young, energetic, entrepreneurial, and bold institution with a culture of compassion that is focused on building a better future for society. Since our first classes 53 years ago, the UCF we all love has been built by people who have been willing to challenge the status quo … and who believed, if there is a better way, we should do it. This invitation to the Big 12 is a testament to our collective achievements and the outstanding accomplishments of our student-athletes and our coaches over many years as we built our athletic program. We are here today because of the years of hard work and advocacy of so many people. Our current and former university trustees, current and former university leaders, elected officials, generous donors, passionate alumni and fans, and dedicated faculty and staff have all helped to build the foundation of excellence that now supports our bold new future. We have benefitted by being in Central Florida, by being embraced as Orlando’s hometown team, and being in a part of a community that believes in magic and knows we can accomplish anything.

I would like to thank Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and the Big 12 chancellors and presidents for their vote of confidence, and we look forward to working with them to prepare for our membership. We also look forward to continuing to compete for championships in the American Athletic Conference, and I would like to thank Commissioner Mike Aresco and the leaders of our fellow AAC institutions for all they have done to strengthen the conference. Our relationship with the AAC has been an exciting experience for the university’s intercollegiate athletics program.

I would also like to acknowledge Terry Mohajir, our vice president and director of athletics who, in six months, has shaped a vision for the future of our athletics program that embodies who we are as an institution and can lead us into the future. Finally, I would like to personally thank Chair Martins for his leadership and counsel. UCF and Knight Nation are grateful to you and the entire board of trustees for your commitment to our focus on excellence in everything that we do as an institution — education, research, engagement and athletics.”

Vice President and Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir

“This is a landmark day for anyone ever associated with UCF or UCF Athletics. As we anticipate a future move to the Big 12 Conference, we first owe a vote of thanks to all those at UCF who have gone before us. There’s a long list of student-athletes, coaches, athletics directors, university presidents and support staff, fans and donors and, of course, our student body, plus so many others whose hard work and successes have helped pave the way for today’s announcement. The bases were already loaded, and I feel very blessed and honored to get to step up to the plate on behalf of UCF.

It’s also appropriate to express our appreciation to the American Athletic Conference. As a proud member since 2013, our teams have won 32 AAC championships in a wide variety of sports. We will continue to proudly represent the AAC during the transition.

I speak for all of us at UCF in expressing our excitement for the opportunities that lie ahead. I’m confident our Knight teams will rise to the challenges to come.

Here at UCF we are in the business of providing the best possible opportunities for our student-athletes to thrive while they are here and to have post-collegiate career success. We are convinced that competing as a member of the Big 12 Conference absolutely will help us accomplish those goals.

In addition, Orlando is one of the most vibrant cities in the world — and the NIL (name, image, likeness) opportunities for our student-athletes here are endless compared to many college towns.”