USC, UCLA expected to join Big Ten as early as 2024, per reports

By Kevin Kelley -

The USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins are expected to join the Big Ten Conference as early as 2024, per two separate reports on Thursday.

Jon Wilner of The Mercury-News first reported the potential move of the Pac-12’s two biggest programs.

Brett McMurphy of The Action Network then confirmed that report with a source who is about 90% confident the move will take place.

That was followed by a tweet from ESPN’s Pete Thamel stating that USC and UCLA’s Big Ten move could be officially announced within the next 24 hours.

The Big Ten, which currently sits at 14 members, would expand to 16 teams and would see it’s new footprint extend from coast to coast.

The move is surely a counter to the SEC extending invitations to the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns, who are set to join the conference in 2025. The ACC currently sits at 14 teams, while the Big 12 will have 12 following the addition of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF and the departure of Oklahoma and Texas.

USC and UCLA leaving the Pac-12 will certainly weaken the conference, which could look to add teams from the Mountain West or even the Big 12. A merger with the Big 12 has also been mentioned.

Stay tuned as the wheel of conference realignment continues to spin with no end in sight.

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Comments (34)

WRONG!! There will be 3. The ACC is not going to lose any members at least until 2036. There is an extremely high Iron Clad buyout, if any team decides to leave. Clemson, FSU, Miami, and Virginia Tech are not going anywhere.

Your comments about the ACC are on the mark but, in the end, I believe there will be 4 power conferences. The 10 remaining PAC-12 schools and 6 of the 8 remnants of the ‘old ‘ Big 12 (Kansas is in this group) will coalesce in some manor to form the fourth 16-team power conference. While the ACC will not lose membership, they can add members and I suspect they will add West Virginia and Connecticut to reach magic number of sixteen.

Travel wise it makes no sense. But The Pac 12 haven’t haven’t played in a National Title game in16 years. Washington being the only team to make the playoffs. I understand where the schools are coming from, but I don’t see either USC or UCLA winning a division no time soon. If the playoffs guaranteed all Power 5 Champions a spot in the playoff. This wouldn’t be happening. Expand the playoff to 8-10 teams

I don’t think USC and UCLA are joining to win a division, but for the financial stability long-term. The path to winning a division was a lot easier in the Pac-12 compared to the B1G. At this point the money drives everything, every decision.

What’s funny is that you feel the Big 10 will have divisions rather than 1 permanent rival or 3, and half/half of the rest alternating each season.

The ACC is switching to that. The SEC has all but confirmed it will be either 1-7-7 or 3-6-6. I personally think there’s a stronger rationale that the best team may not win the conference this way, but it seems like USC or UCLA are likely to face the same challenge: be one of the top 2 teams in the conference.

Honestly, if they were playing in a Big 10 West with Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Northwestern? I’d say USC would be one of the 3 most likely teams to win over the next few years.

Without divisions, it may be a little more of a challenge, having to be above at least all but 1 of Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, etc.

All that said, they’re schools that will get a boost from all the NIL stuff. They’ll be the 2 west coat teams in a mega conference, in a big glitzy, media-focused city. Their recruiting trajectory will be trending upward a lot once this is official. That doesn’t always correlate perfectly with wins, but it sure helps.

Totally agree.

You watch though. If/when the playoffs get expanded, they’ll go crawling back to the Pac-10/12/14, citing travel expense as the reason for returning.

So many questions bouncing around my brain:

Will the Big 10 stop with these 2? They’ve often teased that they’d be happy to go to 20 teams if they added value. So are Colorado or Washington or any others under consideration? ACC teams? Or is this it (for now)?

Does the Big 12 wish they had a “do-over” with expansion now? Would they still add Pac 12 schools like Colorado, Utah, Arizona, or Arizona State? Would they reach further to the coastal states? Or vice versa? Can the Pac-12 minus 2 snag Big 12 schools or are they looking at Boise State, SDSU, UNLV, Hawaii? Would the Big 12 and Pac 12 do some kind of merger? Obviously that wouldn’t bring the clout or cash of the SEC or Big 10, but it might get closer. Any of those things complicate life for UCF, WVU, and Cincy who were all likely hoping any extra expansion would be East. But it would make BYU happy most likely.

How does this affect the CFB Playoff, from who gets a spot, whether expansion is likely, etc.?

What will the domino effect be down to lower conferences (that were just figuring out how they’d look over the next few years)?

Does Notre Dame still like their choice of going with an indentured-independent model tied to the ACC?

Will this lead to MORE games between the future SEC and Big 10 or will the fight for power lead to too many conflicts for that?

So many questions…

The Pac-12 was the one P5 league I expected never to have membership changes again after 2011 due to the locations of their members compared to other P5 schools.

Next domino is the ACC. The BIG10 will grab Clemson, Florida St, or Miami (only one in my prediction) to truly set them up as the first national conference. The SEC will then start circling around the wounded ACC looking to add another piece or two. Once the SEC moves in Notre Dame will have no choice, but to join the Big10. Big10 media rights are about to expire, and the talk last summer was the Big10 was not happy with ESPN. Expect the Big10 to continue to split their broadcast package between Fox and my guess will be NBC if ND ends up joining (maybe even CBS gets in on the action depending on how big they go). I think the PAC12 and Big12 end up merging. The ACC has a very bleak future where most of the conference is cannibalized by the Big10, the SEC, and to a lesser extent the AAC (Wake, maybe Ga Tech ending up here). How ironic would it be if the ACC ends up no longer existing after they started this shuffling 20 some years ago poaching away teams from the Big East.

The Big Ten will only add AAU schools. Clemson, Florida State and Miami do not hold this membership and hence will not hold Big Ten membership.

The Big Ten should add associate members in certain sports who are AAU schools and are full members of another Power 5 conference.

Cal and Stanford field hockey would be at home in the Big Ten, more so than the America East.

I feel like you’re missing the most obvious target for the Big 10 (and probably the SEC if they were to look past 16 too). I think UNC is target #1 for both of them. The top team in their market, in a big-ish market, that would fit the Big 10’s academic profile… 1/2 of college basketball’s biggest rivalry… a football program that has a lot of potential and gets close to living up to it. The ACC has a tricky situation with their TV contract right now. It would take a lot for their teams to get out of it early, but if you’re going that way, UNC and probably Notre Dame (who might now be able to play USC and Michigan annually in conference depending on how Big 10 scheduling works) would be options 1 and 2. There’s been a lot of talk about them looking at UVA and GA Tech (again, think academics PLUS markets… Rutgers and Maryland and hope the on-field products catch up). I won’t deny that a Florida team would be a consideration too, regardless of AAU membership.

The Big10 is going to abandon that (for the record Nebraska is no longer an AAU institution). Notre Dame is not an AAU school and the Big10 wouldn’t think twice about adding them if they asked to join. USC and UCLA were the best remaining options on the AAU board. I also wonder what was the biggest draw for the Big10, the AAU membership or cornering the second largest media market (The big10 now has a team in the three largest media markets in the country and they don’t have to share any of them.) At this point the remaining AAU schools aren’t all that attractive. Oregon would be a great addition, but they are going to need another west coast school to be paired with. Colorado, Stanford, Utah, and Washington are all options (I can’t really see them wanting Arizona), but there are probably more drawbacks then positives with most of them. Stanford and Washington both bring in top 12 media markets, but does that make up for their lack of recent success. After that, Virginia and No Carolina are options, and it would have the same destabilizing effect for the ACC, as the three schools mention above, so that could be an option if they wish to destabilize the ACC to force the hand of ND. Outside of the schools mentioned above the AAU choices are Duke, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Pitt, Rice, and Tulane (I can see a point in the next couple of years where Duke and Kansas drop football to make themselves more attractive as basketball members). At the end of the day the Big10 wants to be the best football conference. Sticking with AAU only schools doesn’t help with that. We are looking down the barrel of two 32 team conferences. Any idea of amateurism and academics will be going the way of the dodo and the evening newspaper.

Both Duke and Kansas football clears more than twice in profit what Duke and Kansas basketball clear. I sincerely doubt either school is dropping football at any point.

I don’t like this move. I may be in the minority, but geography should still matter. On a side note (and the one good thing that may come out of this) , I can’t imagine the Big Ten will allow USC to play Norte Dame the last game of the season anymore. Where does the PAC-12 go now, UNR, UNLV, Air Force, BYU, grab some of the Big 12 schools?

I don’t think it’s a matter of being in the minority about wanting geography. I’d love for goegraphy and historical rivalries to matter most. I think a lot of fans would. But there isn’t a strong, central, governing body to encourage balance, geography, etc…. in fact a lot of the fans who will groan about this also seem, by and large, hostile to the idea of the NCAA taking a stronger role, so that’s ironic. But it’s just the facts… geography is going to take a back seat to markets, big fanbases, and money. So we all just have to kinda strap in and go along for the ride…

AS it stands right now, the PAC-12 will most likely respond by adding 6 of the old Big 12 remnants. The ACC will add cobble up West Virginia then and add UConn. The Big Ten will add Kansas and. yes, Notre Dame. As I predicted last week – “Goodbye, Big 12”

UConn is likely not going to leave the Big East, just because basketball is more important than anything to them.

You should play the stock market. Seriously, you’re so good at predicting things.

The media payout from the ACC would dwarf whatever number they are now receiving from the Big East. That was not the case when they were AAC members. The most important thing they could do for their basketball program would be to move to the ACC – more money and better conference basketball.

The Big 12 won’t lose any more members if all the current ones not named OU or Texas sign a new grant of rights agreement.

Notre Dame can’t join the Big Ten until they are free of their GOR obligations to the ACC. Even then, they would be a non-football member, but would play some Big Ten schools every year in football.

I’m a huge Uconn fan and they would 100% join the ACC.

Playing Duke and Carolina every year would be huge. Plus playing old Big East foes BC, Syracuse, Pitt would be great.

That being said there is a lot of uncertainty regarding ACC, PAC, Big 12. Does the SEC take Clemson, FSU, and Miami? Does BIG take UNC and Virginia? The last thing Uconn would want would be to join a P5 conference then half the schools leave.

I think ACC, PAC, and Big 12 will let the dust settle some before adding more G5 teams.

Arizona and Arizona State to the SEC, makes 18.
Clemson and Florida State to the SEC, makes 20.
Georgia Tech and Miami to the B1G, makes 18.
Washington and Oregon to the B1G, makes 20.
.
So much for that “Alliance”. The remainders merge to make Alliance West, and Alliance East.

I don’t think the Big Ten moves until we see what Notre Dame will do.

If Notre Dame stakes its claim on remaining independent, then I think the Big Ten moves to add Oregon and Washington, perhaps others. There is word several Pac-12 schools have inquired about membership in the Big Ten.

The ACC, I think is in a weird place at the moment, with their contracts, so I think for the time, they are safe, though Clemson is the prize there. I’m sure the SEC would take them (forget that South Carolina doesn’t want them, A&M didn’t want Texas, either and we see how that played out). I’d say the SEC would also have eyes for North Carolina, Duke, Virginia Tech and perhaps Florida State to some degree.

If the ACC begins to crumble, it wouldn’t shock me for Notre Dame to seek membership in the SEC. They don’t seem to want to play in the Big Ten, even though that makes the most sense. But, we’ve seen that what makes sense and what actually happens are two very different things.

I also wouldn’t be stunned if the SEC made a move for the Arizona schools and perhaps Colorado.

The schools sort of in play that I don’t think the SEC moves on are Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, any of the “smaller” Texas schools, Georgia Tech, Miami, or West Virginia. I just don’t think those schools add much. But if they could grab Notre Dame and Clemson and then Arizona or Arizona State and maybe Virginia Tech, that would be pretty strong adds.

Who knows, I am just wildly speculating here… But if you are a fan of a team in the Pac-12, Big 12 or ACC tonight, I don’t think you’re sleeping too well.

I agree with everything you said.

If I’m the BIG Stanford, Washington, and Oregon are the only remaining PAC schools I would have interest in.

If ND is 100% not joining, do they take those 3 and add Kansas to get to 20?

UNC, Duke, Virginia would be of interest in the ACC but will any ACC teams leave before their deal is up?

SEC is interesting. Clemson is clearly their #1 priority. After that where else do they go? FSU, Virginia Tech, UNC/Duke if BIG doesn’t take them? AZ teams would also make some sense to get out west.

As a Uconn fan we’ve been dealing with this upset for the past 10 years!

I agree with most of your assessment, Mike, but I don’t think Clemson is “clearly” anyone’s number 1 priority. I feel like the SEC will want to expand their footprint a bit in their next move. The Big 10 doesn’t have the depth of blue blood and power teams the SEC has, but the SEC has a regional footprint and the Big 10 is upping their game by going more and more national. The SEC might not be looking to epand to the west coast, but they’ll want to at least take a state or two they don’t have already if they’re going to expand. I understand that Clemson is the biggest power team out there that won’t be joining the SEC or Big 10 yet (along with maybe Notre Dame? But if we’re talking on-field stuff, Clemson wins that)… but… does Clemson bring more eyes in at this point?

I think UNC is probably the bigger prize for BOTH the SEC and Big 10 (outside of Notre Dame). A big state that neither conference has a presence in. A big brand. Football always has potential. Basketball is as big as they get, and part of the biggest College Basketball rivalry there is. UNC might see the Big 10 as the better fit… but a lot of people figured that would be the case for Texas too. And yeah, UNC still will have to deal with the ACC grant of rights… but so does Clemson. I feel like UNC would be a bigger get than Clemson (who would become less of a distraction if their conference started coming apart, which would affect the program, recruiting, etc., … they would need the SEC more than the SEC would need them), Florida State, or Miami (either of which would be cool for rivalry reasons, but again, they’d need the SEC more than the other way around if the ACC starts looking weaker). If you get UNC, you can play around a bit with the other options. Duke would be a fun pairing with them. Virginia Tech or UVA. And if you don’t get UNC, maybe NC State? At that point it really starts to depend on how bad you want to expand, while UNC would be an easy “yes” if they were interested.

It’s all speculation, of course, but for the SEC and Big Ten to get to 20 each, which seems to be the next target number for each conference, they’d have to add four each.

As I look over the landscape of all the schools that remain, I’d say the ones with the best shots are: Notre Dame, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Duke, Clemson. That’s 12 teams for 8 spots. I think those 12 offer the SEC and Big Ten some value.

Of course, Washington is going to join the Big Ten over the SEC. There’s no way we see them in the SEC. Same with Oregon, but the rest, honestly, could go either way.

Sure, there is Miami, FSU, Georgia Tech, and others… but what do they add to either the SEC or Big Ten? I can’t see the SEC going after FSU or Tech. The Big Ten might, just to pressure the SEC a little. But in this market putting pressure on the SEC is of no value.

So, we wait on Notre Dame.

I’m telling you, I wouldn’t be shocked if they approached the SEC over the Big Ten. I think they will attempt to maintain independence, but it wouldn’t surprise me at this point.

Also, I think what we are going to see is these conferences will be football, and maybe basketball, only. The non-revenue sports will form more geographical associations. I saw someone else suggesting that and that makes a lot of sense.

Also, I know television markets are huge, and the Big Ten now has NYC, Chicago and LA in their footprint, in addition to Detroit, Cleveland… But, I see two minor issues for them moving forward.

First, none of those towns are really college football towns. In all of them they have established and popular professional teams. So, how big a deal are those markets really? Sure, having a percentage of LA could possibly be better than getting all of Knoxville, but on the other side of that selling the Vols in Knoxville is an easier job than selling Michigan State in Detroit, too. I get that the money will come regardless, but over time that has to be a bit of a concern.

Second, those markets are losing people relatively quickly. So, while those markets are huge now, they aren’t really growing, while markets in Florida, Texas, Tennessee, and North Carolina are growing rapidly. That has to be a concern going forward, as well. That could make Arizona, FSU, Miami, and the North Carolina schools more attractive to the Big Ten than Washington, Oregon, or the Bay Area schools.

All of this is interesting to consider and think about. I still think we wait on Notre Dame at this point. This was a reactionary move by the Big Ten to the SEC adding Oklahoma and Texas. It benefits the Big Ten, so it’s not a reckless move, but it’s purely reactionary to the SEC’s move last year. The SEC is in a position where they don’t have to respond. They can sit back and wait it out. If one of the Arizona schools or Colorado were to approach them, I think they’d consider it. But they still sit atop the college football world for the moment… so they, I believe, wait with us for the next domino to fall.

I understand about getting into new markets but I see Clemson being to good to pass up. I mean the SEC took Texas even though that had Texas A&M.

I see both BIG and SEC going after North Carolina and Virginia schools.

I can’t see BIG going for Florida/AZ schools. I really think they’ll take Oregon and Washington and then sit for a bit to see where everything falls.

If they can’t get ND/ACC school they may wait before adding more.

I agree that the SEC really doesn’t have to do anything at the moment as USC is BIG counter to Texas.

It will be interesting for sure and I think one conference is going to go away. We’ll see who’s left standing.

The Big Ten needs to go really B1G with this — do not stop with USC and UCLA — become the first coast-to-coast 24-team SUPER Conference. Besides adding West Coast presence, solidify the middle of the footprint, and finally fix the mistake of not adding Missouri a decade-plus ago. Sell them on leaving the SEC with the allure of reuniting with Nebraska, now joined by old rivals Kansas and Colorado, and finally becoming league rivals with Illinois and Iowa. Also make it clear to Notre Dame that a spot is being held for them.
·
B1G WESTERN POD
• Stanford / Cal
• USC / UCLA
• Arizona / Utah
·
B1G PLAINS POD
• Colorado / Kansas
• Nebraska / Missouri
• Iowa / Minnesota
·
B1G CENTRAL POD
• Wisconsin / Northwestern
• Illinois / Indiana
• Notre Dame / Purdue
·
B1G EASTERN POD
• Michigan / Michigan State
• Ohio State / Penn State
• Rutgers / Maryland
·
In the event of a refusal to join by Notre Dame, Minnesota slides to the Central Pod and Utah slides to the Plains Pod, with Oregon moving into the Western Pod. Notre Dame, of course, will have a counter-offer to weigh, as the SEC makes its own move to 24 by gobbling up 7 ACC teams in its territory, and leaving one spot open for them.
·
SEC SOUTHWESTERN POD
• Oklahoma / Oklahoma State (replacing Missouri)
• Texas / Texas A&M
• Arkansas / LSU
·
SEC DEEP-SOUTH POD
• Mississippi / Mississippi State
• Alabama / Auburn
• Florida / Florida State
·
SEC SOUTHEASTERN POD
• Georgia / Georgia Tech
• South Carolina / Clemson
• North Carolina / Duke
·
SEC MID-SOUTH POD
• Virginia / Virginia Tech
• Tennessee / Vanderbilt
• Kentucky / Notre Dame
·
In the event of a refusal to join by Notre Dame, due to joining the B1G or somehow remaining independent, settle for Louisville and lock up all of the major brands in the Southeast except Miami (who the SEC has never really cared about) and to some extent North Carolina State. That leaves the PAC to rebuild by raiding the MWC into oblivion.
·
PAC-16 AFTER CHANGES
• Washington / Washington State
• Oregon (unless ND doesn’t join B1G) / Oregon State
• San Jose State / Sacramento State (up from FCS)
• Fresno State / San Diego State
• Nevada / UNLV
• Arizona State / Utah State
• Boise State / Wyoming
• Colorado State / New Mexico
·
If Oregon gets into the B1G, slide New Mexico State into the 16th spot, thus restricting FBS in the West to the B1G and the PAC-16. Air Force would move to the AAC, while Hawaii technically becomes independent in football but signs an 8-game scheduling and bowl agreement with the PAC-16, thus saving travel expenses for the mainland schools in all of the other sports. The ACC and BIG 12 would backfill to reach 16 members by adding schools from the AAC, SBC, and CUSA (with the latter going out of business along with the MWC).