UCLA and USC are headed to the Big-10 Conference
July 7, 2022
In a shocking move, the UCLA Bruins and the USC Trojans announced that they are leaving the Pac-12 Conference and joining the Big Ten Conference. The move will become effective July 1, 2024. Both the Bruins and the Trojans will play the next two seasons in the Pac-12. The Bruins and the Trojans have been members of the Pacific Coast Conference for over 90 years.
UCLA Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond sent this message to announce the move: "UCLA has deeply valued our membership in the Pac-12 for many years, and we intend to be a member of the conference for the next two years. We have grown close to the other member schools and have tremendous respect for their commitment to the student-athlete experience. The Pac-12 has always shared our values and continues to innovate, working hard on behalf of its student-athletes and many fans."
Jarmond continued, "At the same time, each school faces its own unique challenges and circumstances, and we believe this is the best move for UCLA at this time. For us, this move offers greater certainty in rapidly changing times and ensures that we remain a leader in college athletics for generations to come."
USC sent this message to the public: "Over the past three years, we have worked hard to ground our university decisions in what is best for our students," said USC President Carol L. Folt. "With the Big Ten, we are joining a storied conference that shares our commitment to academic excellence and athletic competitiveness, and we are positioning USC and our student-athletes for long-term success and stability amidst the rapidly evolving sports media and collegiate athletics landscapes. We are delighted to begin this new chapter in 2024."
This was a move that was about money. The current Pac-12 media contract with ESPN and FOX pays each member of the Pac-12 $20.8 million annually. The conference also makes $2-3 million annually from the Pac-12 Network. The contract was negotiated in 2011 by Larry Scott, the former commissioner of the Pac-12. A variety of mistakes were made with this contract, including the length of 12 years. Other conferences have done shorter deals and have lapped the Pac-12.
The Big Ten has 16 conference members with the addition of UCLA and USC. The new media contract with the Big Ten will pay each member $71.4 million annually. That does not include any revenue from the NCAA Basketball tournament or revenue from the college football playoff and bowl games. That is expected to earn each member around $100 million in revenue annually.
The Big Ten is the oldest NCAA Division I athletic conference in the United States and with a footprint that will now extend from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The amount of revenue a college football team in a power conference can generate is usually 50% or more of the total revenue generated by the athletic department. That fact alone should explain the reason for this move from by the Bruins and the Trojans.
While the revenue will be a significant increase over what the Bruins and Trojans were making in the Pac-12, the travel will be brutal. The Big Ten has seven schools located in the eastern time zone and seven schools located in the central time zone. For those who have never had the pleasure of living in Big Ten country, it is cold, it snows a lot and travel can be difficult at times.
It is not an ideal situation for student-athletes traveling for Olympic sports. It will be interesting to see how the athletes from Southern California handle the travel in the future. In the meantime, both UCLA and USC have two more years left in the Pac-12 and they are now the two most hated teams in the Pac-12. The "Beat LA Chants" will be louder and more vicious the next two seasons.
Jarmond tried to ensure fans that, "Entry into the Big Ten would also help ensure that UCLA preserves and maintains all 25 current teams. It also means enhanced resources to help all of our teams remain elite, from academic support to mental health and wellness, nutrition, and career development."
The USC leadership team is ready to move on from the Pac-12. "Ultimately, the Big Ten is the best home for USC and Trojan athletics as we move into the new world of collegiate sports," Athletic Director Mike Bohn said. "We are excited that our values align with the league's member institutions. We also will benefit from the stability and strength of the conference; the athletic caliber of Big Ten institutions; the increased visibility, exposure, and resources the conference will bring our student-athletes and programs; and the ability to expand engagement with our passionate alumni nationwide."
Ah, who cares about geography? It's all about total audience and revenue. USC was ready to make this move because their leadership team wants to win national championships in football, and they don't care if they need to join an east coast conference to do it. UCLA needs the revenue to help pay down athletic department debt, but it just does not feel like they really want to make this move to the Big Ten.