In ‘bold and ambitious step,’ Big Ten expands to 16 with addition of USC, UCLA

EVAN BLANDOmaha World-Herald

USC and UCLA are officially set to join the Big Ten Conference beginning with the 2024-25 season, marking perhaps the biggest seismic and historic shift yet in the ever-changing landscape of the college athletics.

The shocking news played out publicly for about seven hours Thursday as the two flagship schools in the Pac-12 Conference were apparently interested in switching leagues with each school and league officially recognizing their future destinations by the end of business hours. on the West Coast.

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet (24) throws the ball for a touchdown as Southern California defensive lineman Jacob Lichtenstein (97) tries to stop him during the second half of the game at the team in 2021.

Associated Press file photo

The Council of Presidents and Chancellors of the Big Ten voted unanimously to accept each school’s application for membership Thursday night. And while the news sent shockwaves through college sports, national reports indicated — and the Big Ten confirmed — the move had been in the works behind the scenes for weeks.

A source told The Athletic that each school was asked two weeks ago to conduct a feasibility study on adding USC and UCLA.

The feedback has obviously been positive.

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Now the Big Ten joins the SEC as a 16-team league, only with a truly national footprint from Jersey Shore to Malibu Beach. The Los Angeles-based schools will bring all the sports the Big Ten play when they become full members on August 2, 2024.

“Ultimately, the Big Ten is the best home for USC and Trojan athletics as we enter the new world of collegiate athletics,” said USC athletic director Mike Bohn, in a statement. “We are delighted that our values ​​align with the member institutions of the league. ”

USC and UCLA have reportedly approached the Big Ten with a desire to join and become the league’s first new schools since adding Rutgers and Maryland in 2014 and Nebraska in 2011 during the early stages of realignment. of the conference. The move is also seen as a response to the SEC’s withdrawal of Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 conference last summer and yet another step closer to the SEC and the Big Ten separating financially and as total members of all others, including their other Power Five. peers.

The additions are also likely why the Big Ten had yet to announce plans to retain or scrap football divisions when other leagues, including the Pac-12 and ACC, have already scrapped them. .

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Meanwhile, the conference is still negotiating its television rights deal with Fox and others, with previous estimates that it will gross north of $1 billion in its next round of deals. This figure is sure to increase further with the addition of another large media market in Los Angeles and two brand universities. Apple has already asked to resume negotiations, according to a Sports Business Journal report.

Such financial stability will be a boon for newcomers. The LA Times in January reported that UCLA’s athletic department absorbed a loss of $62.5 million for fiscal year 2021.

“While this decision increases travel distances for teams, the resources afforded by Big Ten membership may allow for more efficient transportation options,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and athletic director Martin Jarmond. in a press release.

The transition could in theory be relatively smooth for USC and UCLA, as their grant of rights is tied to the current Pac-12 television contract, which expires after the 2023-24 school year.

Several reports have also indicated that the Big Ten’s expansion may not be over. Would the remaining Pac-12 members like Washington and Oregon also be opportunities to switch leagues? What about other remnants of this conference like Stanford?

Notre Dame – a longtime Big Ten siren – could be in play again to join a football conference. The Irish and their contract with NBC run until at least 2025 on a deal worth $15 million a year. If NBC were to be part of the Big Ten’s new media rights deal, it could potentially help bridge the longstanding distance between the league and the school.

“It’s really unsustainable to be independent now,” a source told ESPN.

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Both additions to the Pac-12 are defining moments in the 126-year history of the Big Ten, originally known as the Western Intercollegiate Conference, and have ripple effects across the league.

For Nebraska, the decision moves it from the western boundary of the conference to the geographic center. Husker administrators released a statement Thursday night welcoming the Bruins and Trojans.

“This is an exciting and historic day for the Big Ten Conference and the University of Nebraska,” Chancellor Ronnie Green and athletic director Trev Alberts said in a joint statement. “The addition of UCLA and USC to the Big Ten is a bold and ambitious step at a time of historic change in the landscape of collegiate athletics. These institutions will add two world-class athletic departments and brands to the Big Ten and expand the Conference’s footprint from coast to coast.”

The statement also cited NU’s large alumni base in California who can watch games and its history of successful recruiting in the state.

“For the University of Nebraska, there are many positives associated with this expansion,” the statement said. “UNL has a large alumni base in California who will have a great opportunity to regularly watch our teams compete at historic athletic venues in Southern California. Nebraska has a history of success in recruiting athletes from California, and that will only raise Nebraska’s profile in a We welcome UCLA and USC to the Big Ten Conference and look forward to competing with them in the future.

The next step for the Pac-12 remains uncertain. He could seek to add current or future members of the Big 12, including BYU, or try to stay loyal. The conference had been part of a so-called “Alliance” with the Big Ten and the ACC since last year.

This partnership, for all intents and purposes, now ceases to exist.

The Pac-12 said: “While we are extremely surprised and disappointed by the news from UCLA and USC today, we have a long and storied history in athletics, academics and leadership in support for student-athletes that we believe in. continue to thrive and grow in the future.

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