Last summer, the landscape of college football was altered with the announcement of Texas and Oklahoma’s move to the SEC in 2025. Shortly after this news, the commissioners of the Big Ten, ACC Network and Pac-12 scrambled to form an “alliance,” a move that was created and designed to counter the expansion of the powerhouse SEC.
However, with less than a month before the one-year anniversary of this announcement, the alliance has crumbled. USC and UCLA will depart the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024. At the start of the 2024-25 school year, the two universities will begin play in the Big Ten. According to the official statement released by the Big Ten, the vote on the addition of the two schools was unanimous.
“I am thankful for the collaborative efforts of our campus leadership, athletics directors and Council of Presidents and Chancellors who recognize the changing landscape of college athletics, methodically reviewed each request, and took appropriate action based on our consensus,” said Big Ten conference commissioner Kevin Warren in a statement.
The move is heavily backed by financial projections that see the Big Ten — along with the SEC — making nearly double the revenue than some of the other power five conferences within the next 10 years. It’s also a move influenced by the increased visibility offered by the conference.
In the Pac-12, many games are tied to the Pac-12 Network, while a FOX contract looms for the Big Ten, which will increase the exposure both schools could garner. From a financial standpoint, the move is certainly a no-brainer that offers better security for the programs, but the focus now shifts to how the Pac-12 will move in response.
This move is the first of its kind in the Pac-12, with no member school having left the conference since 1959. In the hours following the announcement, the Pac-12 issued a statement.
“We are extremely surprised and disappointed by the news coming out of UCLA and USC,” the statement reads. “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 pioneer the future of college athletics together.”
Having lost its two biggest brands, the conference must now continue to keep its 10 remaining member schools happy and in check. On the same day the news of the move broke, rumors started circulating that Oregon and Washington, now the Pac-12’s biggest brands after the departures of the Los Angeles schools, would follow the Trojans and Bruins to the Big Ten. However, July 1, the conference made an announcement regarding the immediate future of the conference.
“The Pac-12 Board of Directors met this morning and authorized the Conference to explore all expansion options. The 10 university presidents and chancellors remain committed to a shared mission of academic and athletic excellence on behalf of our student-athletes,” the announcement reads.
Even with a verbal commitment from the 10 universities, it remains to be seen what each of the remaining member schools will decide to do regarding its future in collegiate athletics.
As for the Bears, a joint statement from Chancellor Carol Christ and Athletic Director Jim Knowlton released last Thursday promotes engagement with the other member schools and paints a commitment to the success of Cal student-athletes.
“This is a significant development for our university and the Pac-12, and we are engaging in constant communication with the leadership of our conference partners,” the statement reads. “Regardless of what the future holds, we maintain our steadfast commitment to the athletic and academic success of our student athletes. With three national championships during the past year, excellent APR scores and an unwavering commitment to our DEIBJ efforts, Cal Athletics is well positioned for a strong and successful future.”
This news has sent the college football media and fanbase into a storm with speculation running rampant about both the future of the Pac-12 and the two departing schools. With the Big Ten member schools being situated mostly in the Midwest or even further east, this move could end up having little regard for the well-being of the student-athletes making the cross country travel every weekend.
Will this set the tone for other schools migrating to new conferences and establishing a “poaching” culture among college athletics? Even with much time left before the moves become a reality, this is going to shape the landscape of college athletics for years to come.