ROSEMONT, Ill. (CBS) -- The Big Ten Conference Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously Thursday to admit the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California to the Big Ten Conference.
They will begin competing in the Big Ten in all conference sports in the 2024-2025 academic year.
"As the national leader in academics and athletics for over 126 years, the Big Ten Conference has historically evaluated its membership with the collective goal to forward the academic and athletic mission for student-athletes under the umbrella of higher education," Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a news release. "The unanimous vote today signifies the deep respect and welcoming culture our entire conference has for the University of Southern California, under the leadership of President Carol Folt, and the University of California, Los Angeles, under the leadership of Chancellor Gene Block. 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."
Big Ten presidents and athletic directors met Wednesday night to discuss adding USC and UCLA to the league, according to The Athletic.
The transition of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten is similar to the one that rocked college sports last summer when Texas and Oklahoma opted to leave the Big 12 for the SEC, a move set to transpire ahead of the 2025 season.
That kicked off a realignment bonanza in which the Big 12, American and other conferences saw teams move in and out of their membership. A similar situation will likely occur here if USC and UCLA formalize their intentions to depart the Pac-12. The move would also constitute a stunning divergence in direction for UCLA and Cal, partners in the University of California system.
In acquiring the Trojans and Bruins, the Big Ten would transform from largely a midwest conference to one that extends to the West Coast. It would be a significant shift in the college sports landscape at the Power Five level, which has largely been localized with teams mostly belonging to leagues in their geographic area.
USC and UCLA would bring the Big Ten to a total of 16 teams, the same number as the SEC once Texas and Oklahoma enter their fold. The ACC has 14 teams, while the Big 12 will settle at 12 with BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF in the fold after UT and OU depart.
This acquisition is a significant coup for fourth-year Big Ten commissioner Warren, the first Power Five boss to cancel the 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The news comes less than a year after the Big Ten and Pac-12 -- along with the ACC -- announced a strategic alliance following the SEC's additions of Texas and Oklahoma. That alliance was light on substantive action from the start, and the Big Ten's poaching of two Pac-12 powers only further undermines the notion that the leagues will work together in combatting the SEC's growing hold on power in college sports.
With the Pac-12's media rights deal expiring in 2024 and the Big Ten in the midst of negotiating a new media rights deal that could start as soon as next season and reportedly exceed $1 billion per year, the timing is natural for such discussions. The expiration of that Pac-12 deal should leave USC and UCLA with little financial burden should they ultimately choose to depart for the Big Ten.
The San Jose Mercury-News' Jon Wilner first reported that USC and UCLA were planning to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten.
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