USC & UCLA Officially Join Big Ten; What’s Next for Notre Dame, SEC & Big 12?
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USC and UCLA, members of the Pac-12 for nearly 100 years, have officially been accepted as new members of the Big Ten Conference. The schools will begin play in the Big Ten in 2024.
“Ultimately, the Big Ten is the best home for USC and Trojan athletics as we move into the new world of collegiate sports,” USC AD Mike Bohn said.
The Big Ten joins the SEC as 16-team conferences, and the loss of USC and UCLA could be a death blow to the Pac-12’s future, a source said.
“We’re headed to super conferences,” another source said.
Both Pac-12 schools — motivated by the “drastic difference” in the league’s media rights revenue — initially approached the Big Ten about joining, sources said. Negotiations became serious in the past few months, a source said.
While a number of logistics are still to be determined, USC and UCLA would double their media rights revenue in the Big Ten compared to the Pac-12.
The Big Ten is currently negotiating its new media rights deal, but the addition of the Los Angeles market would increase those “substantially,” a source said. Some estimates have the Big Ten’s new deal worth $100 million annually per school.
What’s Next for Notre Dame?
And the Big Ten may not stop at 16 teams. Notre Dame has long been desired by the Big Ten, but the Irish are contractually obligated to the ACC until 2036. However, Notre Dame — the most highly sought after college regarding realignment on the planet — could find a way to exit earlier, sources said.
Another source believes Notre Dame can get out of its deal with the ACC with “relative ease” and a financial penalty.
“I don’t think the Big Ten stops at 16 schools,” a source said.
Don’t Expect the SEC to Sit Idly By
With the Big Ten’s impending monster media rights deal, don’t expect the SEC to stand pat.
“Even by adding Oklahoma and Texas, the SEC is not going to sit back and watch the Big Ten and let things happen,” a source said.
The SEC would likely target current ACC schools, such as Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina or Virginia, sources said. However, those schools would have to find a way out of the ACC’s Grant of Rights, which doesn’t expire until 2036.
Maybe the SEC pursues Oklahoma State to join OU in the league or adds other Big 12 schools. “Everything that seemed impossible just a few years ago is now a possibility,” an industry source said about any future realignment moves.
Big 12 to Pursue New Members
The Big 12, with newly named commissioner Brett Yormark, plans to go on the offensive and seek more new members, sources said.
The Big 12 could add Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado along with new members BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to get to 16 teams after OU and Texas leave for the SEC, a source said. Other Big 12 sources prefer Washington and Oregon as part of the Big 12.
“The Big 12 has never been aggressive (in conference realignment), but they should contact those four Pac-12 schools and tell them ‘come on board because there’s nothing left’ in the Pac-12,” a source said.
Added another source: “We’re not sitting back this time. That killed us in the past. We’re looking to strengthen our conference.”
There is some hope among Pac-12 sources that the league will add schools from the Big 12 or maybe even some type of merger between the leagues.
Whatever happens, one source summed up the future of conference realignment best: “Buckle up, because this is going to be one helluva ride.”