UCLA and the University of Southern California, two of the most popular college athletic powers, have joined the century-old Pac-12 Conference in a seismic shift to the Big Ten, schools announced Thursday.
This stunning announcement means that by the fall of 2024, it will be Big Ten, headquartered in Rosemont, Illinois, It will have member schools as far west as Los Angeles and the Far East Piscataway, New Jersey, And the College Park, Maryland.
The USC and UCLA confirmed the move in separate statements Thursday, acknowledging its long history in the Pac-12, as well as the opportunities the Big Ten offers student-athletes. With both schools changing conferences, the crosstown rivalry will remain the same.
“In addition, it means strengthening resources for all of our teams, from academic support to mental health and wellness,” UCLA President Jean de Black and athletics director Martin Garmond said in a statement. “And while this move increases travel distances for the teams, the resources provided by Big Ten membership may allow for more efficient transportation options.”
For fans, UCLA said, the shift will translate into better television time slots for road games. Pac-12 football fans have long complained about the late-night kick-off times the networks set on their current TV deal.
The Big Ten also offers more visibility, exposure and resources, as well as “the stability and strength of the conference,” USC athletics director Mike Boone said in a statement.
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said the USC and UCLA have submitted applications for membership and that the university’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously to add the schools.
They will join the conference at the start of the 2024-25 season.
It is the most controversial development to date in the radical reorganization of major college sports, which has led to other geographically challenged affiliations, driven by revenues from television rights to football.
The USC and UCLA splits are a crushing blow to the San Francisco-based Pac-12, which was formed as Pacific Coast Conference In late 1915 by the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Washington, the University of Oregon and the Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University).
In a statement, Pac-12 said it was “extremely surprised and disappointed” by the decision.
“We have long been known as the Conference of Champions, and we are steadfast in our commitment to extending this title,” the statement said. “We will continue to develop new and innovative programs that directly benefit our member institutions, and we look forward to partnering with current and potential members to lead the college’s athletics future together.”
USC joined the league in 1922 and UCLA in 1928, and the Pac-12 now includes Washington State, Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah.
Pac 12 said Friday that its board of directors gave league officials the green light to “explore all expansion options” in a desperate bid to salvage the century-old alliance.
“The ten university presidents and advisors are committed to a common mission of academic and athletic excellence on behalf of our student-athletes,” a statement from the conference said.
The football powerhouse of Oregon, with its close ties to sportswear giant Nike, and Washington, who have won two of the past six Pac-12 games, may be attractive targets for the Hunters.
Cal and Stanford, two of the world’s most elite universities playing in America’s sixth largest television market, could also land in a new alliance.
Associated Press Contributed.
“Devoted travel trailblazer. Freelance beer scholar. Passionate analyst. Hardcore twitter fanatic.”