USC and UCLA have been officially accepted into the Big Ten conference after a vote by the Big Ten presidents and chancellors this evening. Both schools will join the conference in 2024. First reported by The Mercury News this morning, the move was a major surprise to many in the country.
UCLA and USC to leave Pac-12 for Big Ten in 2024
“As the national leader in academics and athletics for over 126 years, the Big Ten Conference has historically evaluated its membership with the collective goal to forward the academic and athletic mission for student-athletes under the umbrella of higher education,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a release. “The unanimous vote today signifies the deep respect and welcoming culture our entire conference has for the University of Southern California, under the leadership of President Carol Folt, and the University of California, Los Angeles, under the leadership of Chancellor Gene Block. I am thankful for the collaborative efforts of our campus leadership, athletics directors and Council of Presidents and Chancellors who recognize the changing landscape of college athletics, methodically reviewed each request, and took appropriate action based on our consensus.”
This comes as the SEC and other conferences are undergoing major changes with Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC causing an avalanche of realignment across college sports in the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA and more. A move of this magnitude would likely cause even more shifts across the conferences as the Pac-12 would look to fill that void.
The Pac-12 released a statement after it became official and expressed their disappointment.
“While we are extremely surprised and disappointed by the news coming out of UCLA and USC today, we have a long and storied history in athletics, academics, and leadership in supporting student-athletes that we’re confident will continue to thrive and grow into the future,” the Pac-12 said in a release.
This move would also coincide with the Big Ten attempting to negotiate a new TV deal. Adding two schools from Los Angeles would certainly drive up the value of any contract the Big Ten would sign by adding the second largest TV market in the United States onto their dockett.
"Ultimately, the Big Ten is the best home for USC and Trojan athletics as we move into the new world of collegiate sports," USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn said. "We are excited that our values align with the league's member institutions. We also will benefit from the stability and strength of the conference; the athletic caliber of Big Ten institutions; the increased visibility, exposure, and resources the conference will bring our student-athletes and programs; and the ability to expand engagement with our passionate alumni nationwide."
According to Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated, several school have contacted the Big Ten about joining the conference as well, most of which from the Pac-12 after the departure from UCLA and USC.
“For our fans, Big Ten membership equates to better television time slots for our road games, but the same number of home games either at the Rose Bowl, in Pauley Pavilion or other UCLA venues,” UCLA chancellor Gene Block and UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a joint statement. “We will make efforts to preserve our traditional regional rivalries and are pleased that our crosstown rival, USC, will also be joining the Big Ten in 2024–25. While we are fierce competitors on the field, we have a rich tradition of collaboration that we look forward to continuing.”
This leaves Michigan State in a strong position within a conference that is stable at the moment adding two major powers.
“We are excited to welcome UCLA and USC to the Big Ten Conference,” Michigan State Athletic Director Alan Haller said. “College athletics is changing, and bold action is required. This move further strengthens the Big Ten and Michigan State, and will benefit our student-athletes with additional opportunities and exposure. Michigan State is a national brand and has a strong base of alumni and fans in California, specifically in the Los Angeles area. We look forward to competing against these two premier institutions.”
What is unclear is what this would mean for the Big Ten in football and their choice in scheduling as conferences no longer need divisions to appoint two conference championship teams to compete but can make whatever qualifications they want to get into the conference title game.
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