USC and UCLA are preparing to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten

USC and UCLA are preparing to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten

Power conference realignment is back in the news Thursday with reports that USC and UCLA are prepared to leave the Pac-12 and join the Big Ten as soon as 2024. The deal has not been finalized, but appears to be on the verge of becoming a reality.

Source: USC and UCLA are planning to leave for the Big Ten as early as 2024. Move *has not been finalized* at the highest levels of power.— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline)

The news sent shockwaves through collegiate athletics, marking the second straight year major conference realignment has taken place. In 2021 the SEC lured Texas and Oklahoma away from the Big 12, solidifying the battle of these power conferences to attract as many schools as possible.

In 2021 this led to dominoes falling throughout the conferences, with huge realignment happening in the Big 12, and others, as a result of Oklahoma and Texas leaving. While nothing is certain at this time, the Pac-12 losing two huge schools in USC and UCLA would certainly lead to them seeking high-profile replacements to stay afloat.

In response to Oklahoma and Texas leaving the Big 12 in 2021, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said they didn’t see a need to evaluate expansion in the wake of the SEC shift. Which, well, whoops.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it’s the crux of the issue. Power conferences are fighting over selling their broadcasting rights for as much as possible, and the Big Ten landing two, premiere west coast teams broadens their appeal in preparation for selling their rights in 2023 when their current contract expires.

Sources: Can confirm @wilnerhotline that USC and UCLA are exploring a move to the Big Ten. The schools have been researching the move for the past few months, and the financial disparity between Big Ten revenue and projected Pac-12 revenue proved the biggest factor.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel)

Meanwhile, the Pac-12 is on the verge of signing a 12-year extension, but the conference is negotiating from a position of weakness. It’s been six years since a Pac-12 team made the College Football Playoff, and revenue has lagged behind the SEC and Big Ten in recent years.

It’s speculative, but locking teams in to lower-than-expected money for 12 years has been mentioned as a potential turnoff for USC and UCLA, who carry the lion’s share of interest in the conference.

That remains to be seen. On the one hand, these massive shifting conferences presumably lead to more NIL money being offered to court the best recruits. However, as these conferences expand we see the physical toll on players being increased.

Should USC and UCLA join the Big Ten the physical footprint of the conference becomes massive. We would have UCLA and USC in California, with Rutgers being the eastern-most team. That would represent extreme back-and-forth travel for players.

The obvious answer is that we need to see if these reports are accurate, though it’s certainly seeming that way. Then the Pac-12 would need to respond and have a plan for membership expansion, which has been rumored in the past to look to move into Kansas, Oklahoma and even Texas to add schools.

Where this could get really interesting is whether the Pac-12 and Big 12, both having lost huge schools in back-to-back years, potentially explore a merger which would expand them into a super conference to contend with the SEC and Big Ten. If that were to happen the ACC would now be on the hot seat, potentially feeling like they’re on the outside looking in while these giant realignments happen.

This is all speculative, but it highlights the mammoth shifts that could occur due to USC and UCLA moving east. Buckle up, because things are looking to get wild again.

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8 of August 2022