Big Ten Conference announces future scheduling for UCLA and USC
June 15, 2023
When the announcement came out on June 30th of 2022 that the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins had decided to leave the Pac-12 conference for the Big Ten Conference for all sports, the first thought of many was the travel burden that both schools were about to take on would be brutal.
That was confirmed last week when the Big Ten announced their 2024 and 2025 football scheduling format with future opponents for those two seasons, the first two for both USC and UCLA in the Big Ten. The Big Ten conference offers a significant increase in media revenue for both schools and better broadcast windows on the over-the-air Networks (NBC, CBS, FOX).
But the travel is going to change. For example, in 2023 the Bruins have road games at San Diego State, at Utah, at Oregon State, at Stanford, at Arizona, and at USC. The Bruins will play three road games in California, and their longest road trip is the 775-mile flight to Corvallis, Oregon. They will not leave the west and it is a fan-friendly road schedule.
In 2024, the Bruins road schedule includes games at Hawaii, at LSU, at Indiana, at Iowa, at Michigan, and at Rutgers. That is three eastern time zone games, two central time zone games, and the game against Hawaii, which is in the Hawaii-Aleutian time zone and is three hours behind Pacific Standard time. The shortest trip will be the 1,800-mile trip to Iowa City, Iowa.
As a comparison, the Penn State Nittany Lions, one of the top teams in the Big Ten, will have a much easier travel schedule. The 2024 Penn State road schedule includes games at West Virginia, at Indiana, at Purdue, at Rutgers, and at Wisconsin. The flight to Madison, Wisconsin is just over 600 miles, the longest road trip of the 2024 season for Penn State. Four of their five road games are in the Eastern Time Zone. That gives a team like Penn State a scheduling advantage over UCLA and USC.
USC's schedule in 2025 will be challenging. The Trojan 2025 road schedule includes games at Notre Dame, at Minnesota, at Ohio State, at Rutgers and at Wisconsin. Because of prior scheduling commitments, USC will play 11 power conference schools in both the 2024 and 2025 seasons.
USC has a neutral site game against the LSU Bayou Bengals in Las Vegas in 2024, and a home game against the Ole Miss Rebels in 2025. That is in addition to their annual game with Notre Dame. UCLA gets the two-time defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs in the Rose Bowl in 2025 and plays at Georgia in 2026.
The Big Ten also announced that with the additions of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten, the conference will eliminate divisions. Beginning in 2024, the Big Ten will play a 16-team conference format with the top two teams getting selected for the Big Ten Conference Championship game (CCG) in Indianapolis, Indiana. If either USC or UCLA makes the CCG, that will be an additional east coast trip.
The Big Ten added that they will adopt a Flex Protect Plus scheduling model, which will protect the annual matchups between Illinois-Northwestern, Illinois-Purdue, Indiana-Purdue, Iowa-Minnesota, Iowa-Nebraska, Iowa-Wisconsin, Maryland-Rutgers, Michigan-Michigan State, Michigan-Ohio State, Minnesota-Wisconsin, and UCLA-USC.
The challenge for both USC and UCLA in the Big Ten will be managing the travel, for all sports. The 2023 football media day for the Big Ten is being held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, on July 26th & 27th. The Pac-12 football media day was usually held in Los Angeles. The center of the Big Ten World is in the eastern time zone, with powerhouse schools like Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State.
The center of the Pac-12 World was in Los Angeles. The conference championships in football and basketball has moved to Las Vegas but USC and UCLA were the big dogs of the Pac-12, and they played in the second largest TV market in America. In the Big Ten they will not have the same power and influence that they had in the Pac-12. They will both feel like outsiders for the first few years, but hopefully they can both develop rivalries and enable this transition to succeed.