06 Jul 2022 | 08:00
On Thursday morning, the last day of June, typically a sleepy time in college athletics, the whole status quo exploded into the sky like the finale of a 4th of July fireworks. .
Reports are pouring out that USC and UCLA will Leave the Pac-12 Conference and join the Big Ten. Initial reports suggested that two Los Angeles schools were in the process of applying, but late Thursday afternoon, the Big Ten voted unanimously to accept both colleges, each participating in a conference that begins on Monday. fall of 2024.
It wasn’t long before both USC and UCLA made their final decisions, issuing statements in support of the move to the Big Ten.
USC President Carol L. Folt wrote in a letter to the USC community: “Our move to the Big Ten USC position is for the long-term success and stability of the changing sports media landscape. rapidly changing and sporting landscape of universities”. “The enhanced resources from this move will enable further support for our student-athletes as well as benefit initiatives around academia, accessibility, and capabilities. pay.”
UCLA Prime Minister Gene D. Block and athletic director Martin Jarmond echoed this sentiment in a letter to the UCLA community, stating, “Participation in the Big Ten will also help ensure that UCLA preserves and maintains all 25 current teams and over 700 student-athletes in our program. Plus, it means enhanced resources for all of our teams, from academic support to mental health and wellness. “
So goodbye Stanford, Cal and Oregon. Hello Michigan, Ohio State and… Rutgers?
At first glance, it all seems unnatural and bizarre. Traveled across the country to New Jersey and Maryland for conference games. Play the Buckeyes and Wolverines not during the Rose Bowl Game but at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Colosseum.
But this is the direction that college athletics, and specifically college football, is heading, and USC and UCLA are making wise, proactive decisions in this ever-changing landscape that is no different from the move. that USC athletic director Mike Bohn put in place to move Colorado from the Big 12 to the Pac-12 in 2011.
Conference reorganization has been the rule in college athletics for the past decade. But last year’s rumor that Texas and Oklahoma were leaving the Big 12 for the SEC was the first sign that the next phase of reorganization is on our side: moving from the Power Five into two mega-conferences featuring all the top shows. top in the country.
Are any schools excluded from these conferences? Sorry, good luck ever.
So USC and UCLA seek to secure their futures rather than wait for the situation to change around them.
“This is the most volatile and uncertain era in the history of American college athletics,” Bohn said in a statement. “USC must ensure that it is positioned and best prepared for whatever comes next, and it is our responsibility to always assess potential opportunities and be ready to make changes as needed. set. In the end, the Big Ten is the best home for USC. “
By all accounts, it was two Los Angeles schools that started the conversation with the Big Ten about the move. The reasons why are not difficult to guess.
In addition to the competitive security that joining the Big Ten offers, there are financial considerations to consider. Pac-12 was trailed by the SEC, Big Ten, and ACC in media rights transactions in the final round of negotiations. Millions have been left on the table for all Pac-12 member schools.
However, Big Ten was ahead of Pac in terms of media rights. Now, add two more schools from the second-largest media market in the country and the Big Ten get a big boost in ongoing negotiations for a new deal.
By some estimates, the Big Ten can make up to $100 million annually per school, tens of millions more than any other conference outside the SEC. That makes this decision a no-brainer for USC and UCLA.
The money helps pave the way, but it doesn’t do much for fans still clinging to age-old college football, with regional rivals and traditions. After the 2023 season, it is unlikely that the next time USC will play its old opponent, Stanford. UCLA and Cal, both members of the UC system, are headed for divorce.
These are schools that have played together every year for more than a century, but not longer.
“The Trojan’s outstanding athletics legacy will always be synonymous with the Pac-12, and there are many iconic moments and memories that we will cherish forever,” declared Bohn, a message that could feel empty for any official Pac-12 reading it.
New rivals in the Big Ten will inevitably form. UCLA’s annual series against Indiana State and Michigan in men’s basketball is a dream of green blood, as are the annual soccer games between USC and Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.
Still, it all feels weird to say it out loud right now, doesn’t it?
But for USC and UCLA, it’s either proactive or neglected. That’s the situation Oregon is in, along with the rest of the Pac-12, or should we say, the Pac-10 again.
The path forward for Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff, who will be celebrating his one-year anniversary with the conference, is uncertain. Can you add schools like San Diego State and Boise State to stop the bleeding? Would you try to merge with another conference – say, the Big 12 – and form your own super alliance?
Who knows if the Big 12 will be interested after it made a similar offer for the Pac-12 last year that was turned down. It can lean more towards looting the damaged conference. Oregon, Washington, and other Pac-12 colleges will likely try to jump ship for other conferences. Maybe a few joined LA schools in the Big Ten.
And if the Pac-12 ends up being gutted, then what happens to the Rose Bowl Game, traditionally played midway through that tournament and – speaking of awkwardness – the Big Ten?
“While we are deeply surprised and disappointed by the news about UCLA and USC today, we have a long and solid history in sports, academia, and sports,” Pac-12 said. leadership in supporting student-athletes,” Pac-12 said in a statement. “We will continue to develop new and innovative programs that directly benefit our member institutions.”
Less than a year ago, Kliavkoff and Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren joined their ACC counterpart to form a “Coalition” to strengthen their stance against the SEC. Part of that handshake agreement, aside from scheduling partnerships, is to keep member schools from poaching each other.
But when the Trojans and Bruins arrive, what does Warren do?
Expansion is the current reality in college athletics. USC and UCLA just decided to pass it.