College football realignment: USC, UCLA bolting to Big Ten
The University of Southern California and the University of California at Los Angeles will leave the Pac-12 conference and join the Big Ten at the start of the 2024-25 season, the schools announced on Thursday.
The big picture: It's another seismic shift in college sports. USC and UCLA, two of the biggest schools in the Pac-12, are the largest and most successful athletics departments on the West Coast, USA Today writes.
- The Big Ten Conference voted on Thursday to accept both USC and UCLA as full members of the conference effective August 2, 2024.
Why it matters: Texas and Oklahoma announced they would leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference last year, and that decision had a domino effect, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.
- The SEC and Big Ten have dominated college football in recent years, combining to win six of the eight College Football Playoff championships.
- With UCLA and USC in the Big Ten, the conference would have 16 schools — the same number as the SEC once Texas and Oklahoma join in 2025.
Details: Finances are playing a big role in the move with both schools tied to the Pac-12 television contract through a grant of rights that expires after the 2023 football season and 2023-24 school year, ESPN and The Athletic report.
- But competitiveness, brand and the overall landscape of the future of the sport have played a bigger role than finances, ESPN writes.
Between the lines: The Big Ten is negotiating its next media rights deal, which is expected to be the most lucrative in NCAA history, according to USA Today.
- The expected deal could reach $1 billion, the Los Angeles Times writes.
- The conference's existing deals with ESPN and Fox run through the next academic year, 2022-23, according to The Athletic.
What they're saying: "For us, this move offers greater certainty in rapidly changing times and ensures that we remain a leader in college athletics for generations to come," UCLA chancellor Gene Block and athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a statement.
- "It means enhanced resources for all of our teams, from academic support to mental health and wellness. And although this move increases travel distances for teams, the resources offered by Big Ten membership may allow for more efficient transportation options," Block and Jarmond added.
- "We are excited that our values align with the league's member institutions," USC athletic director Mike Bohn said.
- "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," Bohn added.
- "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 statement.
- "The unanimous vote today signifies the deep respect and welcoming culture our entire conference has for the University of Southern California ... and the University of California, Los Angeles," Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement.
Editor's note: This article has been updated with statements from the Pac-12 and Big Ten.