On Friday, USC and UCLA officially announced that they will be leaving the PAC-12 conference to join the Big Ten starting in 2024. It’s a move that will alter the landscape of college athletics for years to come.
“We intend to end our membership in the Pac-12 conference when the Pac-12's current media rights agreement expires in August 2024. We look forward to competing these next two years in the Pac-12 and want to express our sincerest gratitude to the conference and its member institutions for decades of wonderful experiences,” USC’s athletics director Mike Bohn said in a statement on Friday.
USC needs no introduction to college football enthusiasts. A historic powerhouse boasting 11 national titles, 7 Heisman Trophy winners, and the most all-time NFL draft picks by any university. In the football world, USC is an unbelievable addition for the Big Ten (their basketball team has had recent success as well). UCLA is no slouch either, bringing their all-time great basketball prowess as well as a solid up-and-coming football program.
California – or more accurately – the entirety of the western United States is a new frontier for the Big Ten. The conference previously reached only as far as the corn fields of Nebraska. It’s by all means a cross-country expansion for the conference, bringing it (and it’s two new members) to an all-new audience.
“We also will benefit from the stability and strength of the conference; the athletic caliber of Big Ten institutions; the increased visibility, exposure, and resources the conference will bring our student-athletes and programs; and the ability to expand engagement with our passionate alumni nationwide,” Mike Bohn continued.
The move is a perpetuation of what is now being dubbed as “The Great Consolidation” in the college football world. That fear was popularized when the iconic universities of Texas and Oklahoma announced their departure from the Big 12 to join the SEC, leaving that conference with a massive gap in leadership. If departures like these continue, a sport which was once filled with several diverse conferences will be dominated by two: the Big Ten and the SEC.
How will this conference consolidation affect the popularity and profit of college athletics over time? An important question to keep in mind because this is just the beginning. As consolidation has shown in every other circumstance, it never ends. The Big Ten and the SEC will always want more profit, more audience. That’s why it should come to no surprise that the Big Ten is now attempting to recruit Notre Dame as well.
Other universities such as Oregon, Washington, and Stanford are reportedly awaiting Notre Dame’s decision. Notre Dame, (one of the only independent universities left), could ultimately be the deciding factor of whether the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) lives or dies. Their decision is expected to be announced sometime in the coming weeks.
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