More conference realignment will be coming to college sports in 2024 — if not sooner.
USC and UCLA are planning to leave the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten after the midwestern conference voted Thursday to add the two California universities.
The move will shake up the college sports world, especially in football and basketball. USC and UCLA have been members of the Pac-12 and its previous iterations since the 1920s. Big Ten leadership, including the member schools’ presidents and chancellors, voted unanimously to add the Los Angeles schools, according to league commissioner Kevin Warren.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that the move caught the Pac-12 off-guard.
“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 in the future,” the Pac-12 said in a statement.
“We look forward to partnering with current and potential members to pioneer the future of college athletics together,” the Pac-12 said.
The move west for the Big Ten would be a massive expansion for the mostly Midwestern conference, making it the only league to stretch all the way from the East Coast to the West Coast. The last time the Big Ten welcomed new schools as full members was in 2014 when it added Maryland and Rutgers, as the conference stretched east. Before that, Nebraska joined in 2011.
According to The Athletic, Big Ten presidents and athletic directors met Wednesday night to discuss adding USC and UCLA.
The two schools become the Big Ten’s 15th and 16th members in 2024, corresponding with the expiration of the Pac-12’s media rights contracts with Fox and ESPN.
For USC and UCLA, the move will mean more money. The Pac-12 distributed $19.8 million per school in 2021 — the least among the Power 5 conferences — while the average Big Ten school received $46.1 million. The SEC’s per-school distribution was $54.6 million.
Now, with the news that the two California stalwarts are moving, this summer could become a repeat of last summer’s conference realignment. Last July, Oklahoma and Texas voted to leave the Big 12 to join the SEC, effective ahead of the 2025 season. Then, several other dominoes fell, with teams joining and leaving conferences like the Big 12, American and several others.
Just last August, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast Conference formed an alliance in the wake of the SEC’s expansion. The conferences said the 41 members would take a collaborative approach to charting the future of athletics. The three conferences set up scheduling arrangements in some sports and have pooled resources to promote athlete welfare.
USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten and Oklahoma and Texas becoming members of the SEC further splinters the college athletics world and puts the alliance in jeopardy. It also could turn the Power 5 — the moniker used for the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and SEC — into a “Power 2,” with the SEC and Big Ten being far more powerful and dominant than the other three conferences.
The Action Network’s Gregg McMurphy reported that the Big 12 could look to bring in current Pac-12 schools Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah.
“We’re headed to super conferences,” a source told McMurphy, a longtime college football reporter.
If the moves go through, the Big Ten and SEC each would have 16 teams. The ACC currently has 14 teams, while the Big 12 would have 12 and the Pac-12 10 without USC and UCLA.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.