The next big domino in college football realignment has fallen, as USC and UCLA will leave the Pac-12 and join the Big Ten in 2024.
Big Ten Conference @bigten
The Big Ten announced today that the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles will become conference members effective August 2, 2024, with competition to begin in all sports the 2024-25 academic year. <a href="https://t.co/DnwNMJSEe7">https://t.co/DnwNMJSEe7</a>
UCLA Athletics @UCLAAthletics
𝗕𝗜𝗚 news! UCLA is joining the Big Ten Conference at the start of the 2024-25 season! 👀<br><br>➡️: <a href="https://t.co/ygoY70o2bo">https://t.co/ygoY70o2bo</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoBruins?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoBruins</a> <a href="https://t.co/Cgj5orGhiI">pic.twitter.com/Cgj5orGhiI</a>
Jon Wilner of the Mercury News initially reported that the schools were planning on switching conferences.
The Pac-12 said in a statement that it was "extremely surprised and disappointed" by the news:
The Athletic's Bruce Feldman added USC and UCLA broached the idea with the Big Ten and not the other way around. Brett McMurphy of Action Network reported the Big Ten conference may not stop at 16 teams.
College football has always featured a gap between the haves and have-nots. The stratification has widened in recent years to the point where a "super league" made up of the elite programs feels inevitable.
In the case of USC and UCLA, the schools' administrators seem to feel they're getting left behind.
Under the stewardship of former commissioner Larry Scott, Pac-12 football fell noticeably behind its Power Five rivals.
USA Today's Steve Berkowitz also wrote in May how the most recent payouts to the Pac-12 member schools, which fell from $33.6 million in 2020 to $19.8 million in 2021, "were the lowest among the Power Five by a significant margin."
For USC and UCLA, the motivations to join the Big Ten are the same ones that led Oklahoma and Texas to bolt the Big 12 for the SEC. There's more money and prestige to be had from playing in the Big Ten.
By expanding their footprint, the Trojans and Bruins might also more easily attract recruits from outside their traditional pipelines.
Losing USC and UCLA deals a major blow to the Pac-12, and the conference might struggle to recover even if it works quickly to line up programs to take their places.
Beyond watching Southern California become Big Ten territory and suffering the consequences of that, the Pac-12 might see the likes of Oregon, Washington and Utah question their futures. The Ducks have become the best school on the West Coast over the last four years under Mario Cristobal and might not want to be the big fish in a small pond.
However, Ryan Kartje of the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday night that no other Pac-12 schools are expected to join the Big Ten "at this time":
When the commissioners for the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 announced their "historic alliance" last August—a direct response to the SEC's poaching of Oklahoma and Texas—many questioned how long the strategic partnership would last.
Less than a year later, the venture is dead in the water.