UCLA and Southern California on Thursday appeared ready to move from the Pac-12 Conference to the Big Ten in the coming years, a move that will unleash another earthquake renewal of the competitive and economic landscape of college sports.
The maneuver came at a time when the Big Ten, whose membership now includes 14 universities, has signed a new television contract in a predominantly Midwestern location stretching from Nebraska to New Jersey, which is expected to be in the history of university sports. be among the richest. The Big Ten was expected to receive official applications from California universities on Thursday, despite a vote by university presidents and presidents that may be monitored in the near future.
The Big Ten turmoil in the Southern California media market will undoubtedly define it as the South East Conference’s strongest rivalry and further exert an impact on an industry that has been bombarded by political and legal pressures on athletes’ rights. . The departure of UCLA and USC would also jeopardize the Pac-12 Conference, which has counted schools in its ranks since the 1920s but in recent years has struggled to make ends meet financially and in the field with the Big Ten. and lead the SEC.
Less than a year ago Oklahoma and Texas decided to leave the Big 12 Conference for the SEC, which has recently become the country’s first university football league. Their movements across the country have opened the door to a reorganization.
However, the Big Ten and Pac-12 membership lists remained unchanged in the mix. The league, which seeks control over the growth of the SEC, has agreed on some issues with the Atlantic Coast Conference, another League of 5 powers.
Then came the threat of a break-up on Thursday, which had been secretly discussed for months and was first reported by The Mercury News.
A person familiar with the debate, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were private, said UCLA and USC were close to the Big Ten about the possibility of joining the league. Especially in an industry governed by contracts and laws, where millions of dollars are spent annually on schools at Power 5 conferences, the sequence of events can be important for legal reasons.
If both the Big Ten and the SEC expand as expected, each will have at least 16 universities in the next few years, including some of the most popular brands in college sports. Big Ten memberships previously include Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.
The USC and UCLA additions will no doubt be on the Big Ten, and may increase its television ratios as well. The two Los Angeles universities are the most diverse Pac-12 anchors in these decades, with a long history that draws attention to the success of the sport.
The USC has long been a marquee football franchise in the West Coast with its long history of national championship teams, Heisman Trophy victories and its distinctive white horse, The Traveler, who wears a Trojan mascot next to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Across the city of Westwood, UCLA is projecting a similar stance in men’s basketball, with the Bruins playing under 11 national championship banners at the Pauley Pavilion and boasting a rich catalog of students who have starred in the NBA.
The USC, which plans to debut Lincoln Riley, a former Oklahoma coach, has seen a decline in football power since the early 2000s when he won a pair of two national titles and a year for the others under Coach Pete Carroll competed in. The UCLA football team has struggled for local relevance in recent years. But schools are reaping many benefits for the Big Ten, including a strong presence in the nation’s second largest television market and even easy access to one of its richest foundations.
In recent years, because the happiness of the Pac-12 in football has diminished – and because the league has been blocked by a television deal that pays tens of millions of dollars a year less than its Big Ten deal to its schools – schools like Alabama, The states of Ohio, Georgia and Clemson have regularly pulled out of Southern California for elite talent.
In addition to men’s football and basketball, UCLA and USC are strong in sports called the Olympics. The USC, for example, has won the national championship in women’s volleyball, women’s track and field and men’s tennis court over the past decade. For its part, UCLA has recently won titles in baseball, beach volleyball, women’s gymnastics, women’s soccer, softball and women’s tennis. Both schools also won titles in water polo, which is not a sport for men or women sponsored by Pac-12.
Under the shadow of the potential financial winds, a heavy burden is being placed on athletes, whether football players or long-distance runners, who will travel regularly from Los Angeles to remote campuses at State College, Pa. ; New Brunswick, NJ; and College Park, Md., for the competition.
Any deal that deceives the USC and UCLA will most likely be a shadow of Kevin Warren, the Big Ten Commissioner, who was criticized in 2020 when his league initially decided not to play the autumn football season due to a pandemic. Although the conference eventually overturned its decision and played part of the games it had planned, Warren dominated part of it. (Pac-12, under Larry Scott, canceled and revived the 2020 football season.)
Meanwhile, the potential departure of USC and UCLA is a sharp test for George Kliavkoff, who became Pac-12 commissioner a year ago. Last August, following decisions by Oklahoma and Texas, the league said it did not plan to expand “at this time”, in part because of “the current competitive strength and cohesiveness of our 12 universities.”
Kevin Draper participated in the report.