USC and UCLA dropped a bombshell when a source indicted they plan to move to the Big Ten as soon as 2024. The news sent the internet into chaos with fans of every team giving their input. Fans of the remaining Pac-12 teams are unsure of their future. USC and UCLA fans are excited because the Pac-12 has been dysfunctional over the past decade (Remember the Pac-12 Network no one had as part of the cable package?). SEC fans are looking for the conference to expand once again. The Big 12 and ACC fans think their conference needs to react as well. While this move may not be happening this year, we need to dissect it in today’s 99 Things.
First we need to talk about the immediate impact for USC and UCLA. The Trojans and Bruins are in for a massive payday. The Big Ten’s new media deal was already expected to be over $1 billion per season which would have been the richest conference deal. Jon Wilner of Mecury News projected UCLA and USC to generate over $100 million each in television revenue each year. Currently each Pac-12 program receives about $21 million per school. Both schools would have increased travel expenses but the escalated revenue will easily offset the costs. Scheduling for nonrevenue sports will be a pain but the schedule makers are likely going to limit cross country travel as much as possible if additional west coast schools are not added.
One speculated reason why both programs are looking to leave the Pac-12 is due to the time slots of the games. Friday night games result in a poor atmosphere and the ratings are also down. The Big 10 has occasional Friday night games but far less than the Pac-12. While diehard college football fans enjoy #Pac12AfterDark, the casual fan rarely watches these games. USC and UCLA would prefer 3:30 EST and 8:00 EST games to help obtain more viewers. East coast bias is real and the two schools realize this. Assimilating with programs in the east and midwest will likely help their credibility in college football.
Think about recruiting for the Big Ten. One reason Nebraska was successful for so many years was because of their access to Texas recruits. After Cornhuskers moved to the Big Ten, local recruits did not see Nebraska on their television as often. All of the Big Ten programs are going to have access to California recruits now. High school players will likely have a new found interest in schools like Iowa, Minnesota, Penn State and Michigan State because they will be watching them play on a weekly basis. Some programs purposely schedule home and home nonconference matchups in talent rich states because it allows them more visibility in the area for recruits.
Now let’s talk about the future of the Pac-12. The conference is on par with the Big 12 at this point. Oregon and Utah are currently very good programs. The remaining eight programs are inconsistent and largely irrelevant. Arizona State, Stanford, Oregon and Washington are intriguing options for the Big 12 if they want to expand. The Pac-12 could also look to add programs and bump up to 14 or 16 schools if they can retain the remaining 10 schools. San Diego State, Fresno State, Nevada, Boise State, UNLV, and Utah state pose intriguing options and fit the Pac-12 geographically. As of this moment I currently expect the Pac-12 to dissolve. Current rumors suggest the Big Ten may look to add additional teams and they will likely add teams on the west coast to accommodate USC and UCLA’s travel needs.
So what’s next? Well first, USC and UCLA need to announce they are leaving the Pac-12. All speculation states they would join the Big Ten for the 2024-2025 season. The Big Ten will approve both schools and then the questions begin. Does the Big Ten continue to expand? Does the Pac-12 try to save their conference and add members? Does the Big 12 try to poach any of the remaining members? The past few hours have been a whirlwind and feel eerily similar to when Texas and Oklahoma departed for the SEC. Hold onto your seats because the next 48 hours could be even crazier.