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Originally published June 30, 2022 at 03:04p.m., updated June 30, 2022 at 07:03p.m.

UCLA, USC accepted into Big Ten; moves come as Big 12 is in process of rebuilding

UCLA running back Kazmeir Allen, left, makes a touchdown catch as USC cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart defends during the first half of a game on Nov. 20, 2021, in Los Angeles.

UCLA running back Kazmeir Allen, left, makes a touchdown catch as USC cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart defends during the first half of a game on Nov. 20, 2021, in Los Angeles.

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Nearly a year after Texas and Oklahoma shook up the college sports landscape by deciding to leave the Big 12 for the SEC, UCLA and USC have done so again.

The two tradition-rich Los Angeles universities are leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten beginning in 2024.

Big Ten presidents and athletic directors met Wednesday to discuss the matter, according to multiple reports, after the schools approached the conference about applying for membership.

"Our storied athletics program, based in one of the biggest media markets in the nation, has always had unique opportunities and faced unique challenges," UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond wrote in a statement. "In recent years, however, seismic changes in collegiate athletics have made us evaluate how best to support our student-athletes as we move forward."

Driving their desire to leave the Pac-12 is not just finances but also the pursuit of a higher level of competition, greater brand awareness — including NCAA legislation that allows players to profit off their names, images and likenesses — and concern over the future landscape of college athletics.

The geographic boundaries long observed by athletic conferences, along with longstanding rivalries between schools, have eroded in recent years mainly because of the skyrocketing revenues associated with media rights contracts.

"This is the most volatile and uncertain era in the history of American collegiate athletics," USC athletic director Mike Bohn wrote in his own statement. "USC must ensure it is best positioned and prepared for whatever happens next, and it is our responsibility to always evaluate potential opportunities and be willing to make changes when needed."

By adding UCLA and USC, the Big Ten can counter the SEC's expansion to 16 teams following its additions of Texas and Oklahoma with growth of its own while entering the United States' second-largest media market, Los Angeles.

The additional exposure of the Big Ten in that region should drive up the value of the conference's next media rights contract. Sports Business Journal reported in early May that the Big Ten could command a record-setting $1 billion per season from broadcast partners beginning next year, when its six-year, $2.65 billion media rights deal expires, giving each university roughly $71 million per year — and that was before UCLA and USC's intentions were known.

By comparison, the Pac-12's media rights deal, which was signed in 2012 and expires in 2024, was for $5.9 billion over 12 years. The Associated Press reported the conference distributed only $19.8 million per school in fiscal year 2021 while the Big Ten's per-school distribution was $46.1 million and the SEC's was $54.6 million.

Although the value of such contracts has changed significantly in the past decade, the Pac-12 would likely be looking at a smaller offer from broadcasters without the draw of UCLA and USC than the one it would receive with them still a part of the conference.

"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," read a statement from the Pac-12.

The Big 12 responded to the decisions of Texas and Oklahoma to depart the conference, which is scheduled to happen in 2025, by adding BYU, Houston, Cincinnati and UCF — a quartet of universities that does not come close to equaling the cachet the two departing schools offer. Those four will join the Big 12 effective July 1, 2023, creating a 14-team conference for up to two years.

Although it's unclear how the decisions by UCLA and USC will affect Kansas, which has tried to put itself in position to not be left behind by conference realignment, it will once again find itself at a crossroads. The Big Ten has long been regarded as a reasonable landing spot for the university, based on geography and academics, should a future in the Big 12 at any point be deemed unsuitable. By adding UCLA and USC, though, the Big Ten is seemingly putting that possibility, however realistic, on hold.

The Big 12 on Wednesday named Brett Yormark, an executive with Roc Nation and a former CEO of the Brooklyn Nets, as its new commissioner. Yormark is expected to make his first appearance at Big 12 football media days, a two-day event beginning July 13, before formally replacing Bob Bowlsby on Aug. 1.

Kansas won't be the only school left wondering about its future now that UCLA and USC have ended up changing conferences. The ACC, which stretches from Syracuse to Miami, overlaps geographically with the Big Ten and the SEC and has several schools that may be attractive should either conference continue to expand. Then there's Notre Dame, a university with a storied football program that has staunchly remained independent even as the rest of its programs have joined the ACC.

In leaving the Pac-12, UCLA and USC are destabilizing a conference that has been fairly immune from the realignment that has washed over Division I athletics for the better part of the past two decades.

Known as the Pac-8 until 1978, when Arizona and Arizona State joined to form the Pac-10, the conference did not add members until 2010, when Colorado left the Big 12 and Utah left the Mountain West.

The Big Ten, meanwhile, has been growing steadily for the past three decades, following the addition of Penn State for the 1991-92 school year. Nebraska joined from the Big 12 in 2011, and the conference finally grew beyond its traditional Midwest footprint when Maryland and Rutgers were added in 2014.

It will become the first major Atlantic-to-Pacific conference, though it won't be the first to try. The Big East in 2011 voted to add San Diego State and Boise State as members before the schools that did not sponsor FBS football voted to break away from the conference, partly as a result of that move.

Comments

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 5 months ago

That's too bad. I was hoping to see KU mentioned in any new Big10 expansion plans.

It's almost unfortunate that the Big12 added the four new schools as a Big8 + Pac10 merger may have made sense. That would have yielded two 9 team east/west divisions.

A Big12 + Pac10 could look to add two more schools for four 6 school divisions, however, which would help with the travel logistics.

Brett McCabe 5 months ago

Agree, a merger would have been a stronger move. And agree that this hurts us. With this new commissioner, and the unbelievable changing of the landscape in college athletics, nothing is out of the question now. Maybe this guy will counter with a big idea.

Dirk Medema 5 months ago

That will make for some interesting travel schedules.

Interesting that they were looking for better competition. Have they really been that competitive recently?

Dale Rogers 5 months ago

USC has not been particularly competitive of late but that is about to change, big time. With Lincoln Riley leading the team and with all the big-time transfers, they should be in the hunt in this season's Pac 12. And they've been very competitive in basketball in the past few years.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 5 months ago

So much for that incredibly strong "alliance" between the Pac12, ACC & Big10 that was announced less than a year ago!

Rodney Crain 5 months ago

Excellent news, this brings the Pac-12 down to our level.

The power and ca$h ranking is:

  • SEC
  • B10
  • ACC
  • Pac-12, B12

There is only 1 reason they are going to the B10 - Lot's of Money. This will also attract more attention to games on the west coast. Ratings for late B10 games out west are going to blow up.

We should merge with the Pac 12. Only way to remain relevent.

Anyone know how much a custom Boeing 777-300ER costs? Please reply to UCLA and USC.

Brian Skelly 5 months ago

It may sound crazy, but maybe Arizona / ASU along with Utah and Colorado should be targets.

My guess is markets and athletic department wise they're probably comparable to a lot of the Big 12. KU is high on that list, and will likely be the highest once UT and OU leave.

I too dream of the Big 10 as a possibility for KU. But this USC / UCLA move seems like it's way out of the leftfield and is going cause a lot of scrambling for everyone.

Dirk Medema 5 months ago

It’s official.

TV rights thru 2023, so the realign starts in 2024.

Dale Rogers 5 months ago

Any thoughts about a 3-way merger - Big 12/Pac 12/ACC?? Haven't looked to see how many universities that would include but, if done right, it might be doable.

Randy Bombardier 5 months ago

Going to the B1G would be a mistake. The New Big 12 is already better than the wounded PAC. The Arizona schools will make make more money with us. Taking Colorado and Utah makes sense. Complete merger with remaining PAC? Why not?

Joey Meyer 5 months ago

Going to the B1G would be a mistake? What?

What choice do we have? It’s going to be a 3x difference in TV revenue. When one school brings in $120m a year and another $35m a year, then the latter is going to immediately lose every single good coach they have.

Good competition isn’t where KU needs to look, it’s an all out dogfight to try and get into the big 2 or the breakaway “super conference” when it happens.

I still think we’re in the 4-8 range of next in line for B1G, but I certainly hope I’m wrong and we get a call at some point soon.

Brett McCabe 5 months ago

So.....I still don't have a reply option.....Brian: I heard a version of this scenario yesterday on the radio. Utah and Colorado specifically. The "brands" left in the PAC 12 are: Washington, Oregon, Stanford and Arizona. On the show I listened to, they thought that these four schools will likely also end up in the Big Ten, and that USC/UCLA was simply step one.

As others have suggested, one approach would be for the Big 12 to try and become a super-conference with Tier 2 Schools: Oregon State, Wash State, ASU (Does anyone want Cal?), Utah, Colorado, etc. This would clearly be a 2nd level conference, but it would still be a good conference. Quality schools that have recruiting reach, time-zone offerings for TV, etc. It certainly would not be the end of the world.

I also heard that KU still has a chance with the Big 10. If anyone can get us there, it is Goff - with his connections. That is clearly Best Case Scenario for KU, and we are clearly a bubble team. Travel and geography no longer make any sense, so our proximity doesn't help that much. KU would be better for the Big 10 than Nebraska and, probably, Rutgers but the ship may have already sailed. The basketball national championship could not have come at a better time, though, for reinforcing the one thing we actually have to offer.

We may need to hire a second AD, one to do all the normal AD work, while Goff spends 24/7 trying to secure our future.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 5 months ago

I think the big universities of the ACC would already have one foot out of the ACC's door if it were not for their media rights deals being locked up for another decade plus.

KU's best shot of landing in the Big10 is if Notre Dame decides it can no longer sit on the sidelines (and the ACC doesn't look nearly as good today) and joins the Big10. KU might be their +1

Robert Brock 5 months ago

I’d love for KU to get an invite to the B1G but reality is that UW, Oregon, Stanford, and the U. of California are waiting in line ahead of us.

Oh, and folks who think Notre Dame wants in are smoking some powerful stuff.

Andy Godwin 5 months ago

The move by USC and UCLA furthers the speculation that major college sports is headed towards a “Power 2” system in which the Big Ten and SEC will continue to poach big-name programs from other leagues. It is not clear where KU is viewed given their current football program. Basketball will only carry KU’s worth so far in this potential Power 2 alignment. “The sentiment throughout the college football world is that the two leagues could grow to 30–35 teams each, operating as a “semi-professional model” (see story by Nick Selbe – Sports Illustrated). If true, then KU needs to get their football program on stable ground and soon.

What many people also forget is when that when schools move to another conference, some sports programs, like beach volleyball are not part of the Big Ten conference and now the schools are left looking to find another conference to support these no-revenue generating sports.

W Keith Swinehart II 5 months ago

With new schools joining, the Big 12 will be fine. Focus on the KU football becoming competitive in the Big 12.

Matt Gauntt 5 months ago

A merger with the PAC-12 would be great.

I would hate to see us disband to the Big 10. There is a history with the Big 8, now the Big 12. We have been playing KSU since 1913, Iowa State since 1908, Oklahoma State since 1958. We HAD BEEN playing against Missouri since 1907, Nebraska since 1907, Oklahoma since 1919 and Colorado since 1947. The realignments have ruined traditional rivalries. New rivalries with the PAC-12 teams would be interesting, but please don't screw up history and tradition. Sometimes money just isn't the most important thing.

Spencer Goff 5 months ago

Been saying this forever.... The MOST overrated, overvalued, overblown conference in the United States by far is/was the Pac-12. They were propped up by a high population centered around California, yet nobody seemed to care that of those millions, those fanbases are a thin percent, fickle, and don't care the moment they know they will not win a title. This is not speculation, I lived there, the only team they live and die with starts with "L" and ends with "Akers." Even the Dodgers are a close second place. This move changes nothing of that dynamic.

The next weakest conference? The other "alliance" member, the ACC. Remove current day Clemson, Miami, Florida State and what is that conference, any one of them, and what is that conference exactly? The Big East with football?

It was always real fun for those other fanbases to point at the Big 12 and talk about how "oh they are just going to get left out, because they should, they are nothing." As though being in the Pac 12 arbitrarily made schools like Oregon State or Washington State more "valuable" than Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, etc. Because Oregon's middle pack academics but Phil Knight Sweat Box money made them valuable? Remember when they didn't need to merge, they were too good for us? I hope the final text message Bob Bowlsby sends to George Klaikovinstein is "How does my junk taste now?"

The Big 10 will likely try to pod a system around those two LA garbo schools. So they'll add Colorado (another school with a fanbase that doesn't give a damn, hey coincidence that many of their population moved to the front range from Cali?), and probably Washington (if they go for academic fit/value) or an Arizona school (if they want geographical fit). If they form pods and put those four teams into the same pod, get ready for a mediocre mix of trash performances. USC is the Texas of the West Coast, "it's our conference's fault we aren't winning titles... not our hires, our recruits, our fans.... anything but that!"

There is an outside shot the Big 10 would reach for a school like KU to extend their reach to cover the gap to Colorado. But to be honest, I'll believe it when I see it, and frankly, who cares? Pluck a few more schools into the Big 12, be one of the last three standing when the SEC and Big 10 rob the ACC, and move forward.

And for the "but it's headed for two!" people... Just saying or reading it is headed for two, as opposed to three or four, doesn't make it a reality. Just because Finebaum only cares for 1.5 conferences doesn't mean the rest of the United States feels the same. It could end up being anything from 2-4 power conferences, but in reality, it was NEVER five.

PS: as a side note, I truly hope our business and law schools are using the "Alliance" as a lesson in "handshakes and back rubs don't mean anything, get it in writing." I think we all saw that for the joke it was.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 5 months ago

The Big12 would be wise to immediately start talking to Utah, Arizona & Arizona State and Colorado. They would all fit perfectly into the Big12 (16) and be a damn fine conference. Poorer than the Big10 and SEC, but still competitive and entertaining.

Bj Cassady 5 months ago

Egads it is the civil war again the North vs the South!

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 5 months ago

RE: To Robert Brock

According to CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd, both Washington and Oregon have been told by the Big Ten that the conference is waiting for an answer from Notre Dame about membership before it moves forward expanding to any other schools.

I guess I'm not the only one smoking the strong stuff.

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