A few minutes ago, longtime Pac12/LA reporter and Baylor foil (look up his rankings of us during the Briles Era, in case you forgot) Jon Wilner tweeted a bombshell that has the possibility to shake up the entire world of CFB again and, more relevant to our interests, positively impact the future of the Big 12 Conference. The tweet:
Source: USC and UCLA are planning to leave for the Big Ten as early as 2024. Move *has not been finalized* at the highest levels of power.— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) June 30, 2022
Before we go any further, we need to stress a few things. First, this is one reporter currently running with this (UPDATE, NOW THREE), and his report (if you want to be charitable in 2023) has serious caveats included in its 140-character limit. There is every possibility that this is bad information or it gets walked back at some point. For the last decade+ that this site has been in existence, I’ve gone with the “two source” rule (despite never having gone to J-school and only having heard that rule in movies) and held off talking about things until they were a little more concrete.
I’m not going to do that here, and I’ll tell you why—that this report exists at all with someone as connected as Wilner, and that Wilner was willing to run with it even to this extent, probably means there’s something here. Stated differently, I don’t think we’d be seeing/hearing this at this stage if it wasn’t somewhat true. And if the history of realignment thus far has taught us anything, it is that once something like this breaks, that horse is out of the barn.
What does this mean? A lot of things. Say what you want about UCLA’s recent history in football, those are two of the biggest brands in the Pac 12 Conference along with Oregon and, to a lesser extent, Stanford and Washington. USC is clearly the biggest name in the Pac12 South and, depending on how much you think of Lincoln Riley, poised to make a leap back into either Pac 12 contention or national prominence. This would be a disaster for the Pac 12, which has well-publicized problems related to national perception and revenue. The reality is that as much as people have talked about the supposed weakness of the new Big 12 sans-OU and UT, the Pac 12 has been as weak or weaker for quite some time. Without USC and UCLA (more the former than the latter), the Pac 12’s existing problems only get that much worse, and it becomes a matter of time before other schools like Oregon (or even schools further down the pecking order) start looking for landing spots. In previous realignment cycles, the Rocky Mountains have functioned as something of a bulwark against poaching, and the Pac 12 has even been attractive to schools that might go their way (remember all the UT/TT/OU/whoever to the Pac 12 talk before/after A&M left for the SEC?). That bulwark gets a lot more tenuous—and the possibility of Pac 12 expansion to take from where else, a lot less likely—if this happens.
And that’s where the Big 12 itself comes in, to say nothing of the B1G, which would obviously be gearing up to position itself against the SEC. If this happens, the Big 12, soon to be back at 12 members after the additions of BYU, UH, Cincy, and UCF, could look to expand further to say, 14 or 16. The logical candidates for that would be, immediately, the Arizona schools due to sheer geographic proximity, and, if you want to go beyond 14, someone like Utah and Colorado, Utah and someone else, or Colorado and someone else. If this happens (and I know I’ve said that more than once now) it is an opportunity for the new Big 12, led by our new Commissioner, to aggressively position itself heading into the next round of media rights negotiations and Playoff expansion or non-expansion, specifically, and the future, generally.
Two more questions that are popping into my head as I type this:
- What does this mean for the ACC, specifically Clemson, UNC, FSU, and maybe Miami? Do some of them try to jump ship for the SEC and/or the B1G, too? They have to start thinking about it, at least.
- If this happens, both the SEC and B1G will be at 16 members (both are at 14 now, and the SEC would be adding Texas/OU, the B1G, USC/UCLA). It doesn’t stop there with other power programs like Oregon seemingly left out, right?
I’m curious what folks think about this. Assume that it is true, how do you want the Big 12 to react? What would be your ideal outcome?
I’ll update the post as new information comes in going forward.
UPDATE #1: There is now a second reporter of note:
USC and UCLA are in negotiations to join the Big Ten conference, a source tells @SINow, confirming @wilnerhotline's report.— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) June 30, 2022
A stunning but not all that surprising move: Teams are jockeying to get into the top two leagues of FBS - the SEC and B1G.
UPDATE #2: And a third:
Sources: Can confirm @wilnerhotline that USC and UCLA are exploring a move to the Big Ten. The schools have been researching the move for the past few months, and the financial disparity between Big Ten revenue and projected Pac-12 revenue proved the biggest factor.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) June 30, 2022
UPDATE #3: Moving fast now.
USC & UCLA’s deal with the Big Ten could be done in a matter of days/hours, sources tell @SINow. It is down the line. B1G is prepared for an announcement.— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) June 30, 2022
Target year 2024.
The schools expressed interest to B1G several months ago. Negotiations escalated over the last few weeks.