The Trojans and the Bruins are getting a change of scenery.
USC and UCLA are set to exit the Pac-12 and become the newest members of the Big Ten in 2024, another seismic shift for a college football landscape that has been rocked by conference realignments in recent years. The move is expected to receive unanimous approval from the Big Ten presidents and chancellors, who are meeting Thursday evening to cast a formal vote.
The news broke Thursday morning when Pac-12 sportswriter Jon Wilner Tweeted that USC and UCLA were both planning to leave for the Big Ten as early as 2024. Things only accelerated from there, but the schools had reportedly been exploring the move for months, according to sources close to ESPN’s Pete Thamel, with the disparity in revenue between Big Ten and Pac-12 the chief factor behind the decision to change conferences.
Wilner also offered a cryptic postscript Wednesday afternoon — “Don’t assume the Big Ten is done.” — suggesting the Big Ten could expand beyond 16 teams.
The additions of USC and UCLA could mean the end of divisions in Big Ten football. Expect the conference to follow the lead of the ACC, which announced on Tuesday that they were dissolving their divisions and adopting a 3-5-5 scheduling model. Under the new scheduling model, which will take effect in 2023, each ACC team will play three primary opponents annually and face the other 10 league teams twice during a four-year cycle, once at home and once on the road.
The move also spells doom for the Pac-12. They are now in a similar position as the Big 12 when Texas and Oklahoma bolted for the SEC. With their two flagship programs walking out the door, the Big 12 opted to replenish their ranks by raid the American Athletic Conference and poaching Central Florida, Cincinnati, and Houston, along with the addition of BYU, formerly an Independent.
Conversely, adding USC and UCLA fortifies the strength of the Big Ten, allowing them to bolster their ranks with two tradition-rich programs while also expanding their reach into the West Coast market. For better or for worse, college football is fast becoming a two-horse race between two mega-conferences — the Big Ten and the SEC — with the ACC, the Big 12, and the Pac-12 all facing an uncertain future as conference alignment is likely to continue.