USC and UCLA were accepted as the newest members of the Big Ten Conference with league officials agreeing to their membership Thursday night. The shows announced both of them will leave Pac-12 starting in 2024, as the pair marks a major acquisition of the Big Ten that will dramatically change the college sports landscape.
“Ultimately, the Big Ten is the best home for USC and Trojan athletics as we move into a new world of team sports,” said Mike Boone, USC athletics director. “We are excited that our values are aligned with the league’s member institutions. We will also benefit from the stability and strength of the conference; the athletic caliber of the Big Ten institutions; the increased visibility, exposure, and resources that the conference will provide for our student-athletes and programs; and the ability to expand engagement with our motivated alumni nationwide.”
“After careful consideration and thoughtful deliberation, UCLA has decided to leave the Pac-12 Conference and join the Big Ten Conference at the start of the 2024-25 season,” UCLA Chancellor Gene de Block and AD Martin Garmond said in a joint statement. . “…Each school faces its own unique challenges and circumstances, and we believe this is UCLA’s best move at this time. For us, this move provides greater certainty in rapidly changing times and ensures that we remain leaders in college athletics for generations to come. As the oldest NCAA Division I athletic conference in the United States and a footprint that now stretches from the Pacific to the Atlantic, Big Ten membership provides the Bruins with exciting new competitive opportunities and a broader national media platform for our student-athletes to compete and showcase their talents.”
Athletics chiefs and directors first met Wednesday night to discuss adding USC and UCLA to the league, sources told Matt Norlander of CBS Sports. A subsequent vote was held Thursday night to officially welcome the programs into the league starting August 2, 2024.
“As the national leader in academia and athletics for more than 126 years, the Big Ten Conference has historically valued its membership with the collective goal of directing the academic and athletic mission of student-athletes under the umbrella of higher education,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said. “Today’s unanimous vote is indicative of the profound respect and culture of welcome that our entire conference has for the University of Southern California, under the leadership of President Carol Wohlt, and the University of California, Los Angeles, under the leadership of Chancellor Jane Block.”
Representatives of the remaining 10 Pac-12 programs are scheduled to speak Thursday night, sources told Dodd. Pac-12 would prefer to stay together, but the major players concede that could be tough in the middle of a crucial period. There are reports that several Pac-12 programs have already contacted the Big Ten about the possibility of joining their membership.
Pac-12 has been left reeling as it lost two of its iconic shows amid ongoing negotiations over a new media rights deal. With its current contracts expiring June 30, 2024, Thursday was the last day for the USC and UCLA to notify Pac-12 of their plans to leave without potentially incurring additional financial fines, sources told Norlander.
“While we are very surprised and disappointed by the news coming from UCLA and USC today, we have a long and proven history in athletics, academics, and leadership in supporting student-athletes who we are confident will continue to thrive and grow in the future,” Pac12 said in a statement. New and innovative directly benefit our member institutions, and we look forward to partnering with current and potential members to lead the college’s athletics future together.”
This movement also comes at an important time for the Big Ten, which will be expanding its convention with two major brands while it’s in the midst of. That deal could start as soon as next season and be worth more than $1 billion annually.
The USC and UCLA move to the Big Ten is similar to the one that rocked college esports last summer when Texas and Oklahoma opted to leave the Big 12 for the SEC, a move set to happen before the 2025 season. This led to a major rebound in the reorganization as the 12 major and U.S. conferences saw And other teams enter and leave its membership.
A similar domino effect is expected here as the Pac-12 could see additional teams exit.
“It’s all about SC at the end of the day: SC’s desire to move in, and then they need a partner in crime,” a Dodd Pac 12 source said. “It goes back to the value of USC football driving this and the Los Angeles market.”
The move marks a striking divergence in the direction of UCLA, which is Cal’s partner in the UCLA system and has previously suggested that universities will remain linked. USC initially decided to explore leaving Pac-12, reaching out to UCLA as a partner before, according to multiple reports, both schools had contacted the Big Ten to explore whether the conference was interested in their membership.
Getting in on the Trojans and Bruins, the Big Ten is turning from a largely Midwest Conference to a conference stretching from New Jersey to the West Coast. It’s a major shift in the Power Five-level college sports landscape, which is largely localized with teams that mostly belong to the leagues in their geographic area.
USC and UCLA brought the Big Ten to a total of 16 teams, the same number as the SEC once Texas and Oklahoma entered the league. The ACC has 14 teams, while the Big 12 settles into 12 with BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF in the fold after leaving UT and OU.
The acquisition is a major coup for Big Ten’s fourth-year commissioner Kevin Warren, who is the first Power Five president to cancel the 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. By contrast, it would likely be a devastating blow to Pac-12 Commissioner George Klyavkov, whose one-year anniversary in office came when news broke on Thursday.
The Big Ten’s raid of two of Pac-12’s most notable programs comes less than a year after the two conventions – along with the ACC – announced a strategic alliance following the SEC’s additions to Texas and Oklahoma. This alliance has been light on core business from the start, and the poaching of UCLA and UCLA by the Big Ten further undermines the idea that tournaments will work together in combating the SEC’s increasing control of power in college sports.
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