By Matt Stevens -- IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst
June 30, 2022
(Cover photo courtesy Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)
Big Ten chancellors and presidents voted unanimously Thursday night to accept the applications of the University of Southern California and the University of California-Los Angeles, admitting the schools and their athletic programs in the summer of 2024.
The move capped off a wild day of reports and speculation which began with John Wilner of The Mercury News in San Jose filing a report of USC's and UCLA's planned departure and further confirmation from Sports Illustrated, ESPN.com and The Athletic followed shortly thereafter.
According to Sports Illustrated reporter Ross Dellenger, the two schools approached the Big Ten Conference with their desire to leave the Pac-12 in a power play move hoping the Big Ten would be interested in expanding its league to include them.
“You have to be a moron to not think about it,” a Big Ten source told Dellenger. “They would have gone somewhere else if we said ’no.’”
The last time the Big Ten expanded its membership was Nov. 2012 when the University of Maryland's Board of Regents voted to withdraw from the Atlantic Coast Conference and join the Big Ten as its 13th member effective on July 1, 2014. One day later, Rutgers University announced it had accepted an offer to move from Big East Conference to become the 14th member school of the Big Ten.
Multiple sources told ESPN.com Thursday that the move by USC and UCLA is expected to happen and an announcement by the Big Ten could come within the next few days, if not sooner.
USC and UCLA have a grant of rights tied to the current Pac-12 television contract, which expires after the 2023 football season and 2023-24 school year. According to ESPN.com reporting, both schools can go to the Big Ten as soon as the 2024-25 athletic season and not suffer any financial penalties.
The Athletic is confirming via unnamed sources that a meeting was held Wednesday evening and an announcement from Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors could come as early as tonight, with USC and UCLA expected to submit formal paperwork on the move within hours.
This move comes on the heels of the Big Ten in current negotiations with network partners over a new media rights deal and a Sports Business Journal report suggesting the league is “poised to become the first college conference to eclipse the $1 billion mark for media rights annually”. The lucrative deal for all the member schools is expected to be announced in the summer months.
"We just got Sooner'd and Horn'd," a high-ranking university official at one of the Pac-12 schools told ESPN, referring to the decision made last year by Texas and Oklahoma to leave the Big 12 Conference for the Southeastern Conference.
Earlier this month, The Oregonian quoted Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff that he was not concerned about schools leaving his league for the Big Ten.
“Absolutely not,” Kliavkoff said. “I have no concern about our schools. We had the opportunity when conference realignment was going on last summer to canvas our president and chancellors and it is clear to me that everyone who’s in the Pac-12 is committed to the Pac-12. I’m not worried about that. We’re not looking to expand; we had lots of opportunities to expand. We’re really happy at 12.”
By obtaining USC and UCLA, the Big Ten would now have member schools and therefore its conference network as a major stockholder in five of the seven largest metro markets in the country including Los Angeles, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.
Joint statement from University of Illinois Chancellor Robert Jones and Director of Athletics Josh Whitman:
"As a founding member of the Big Ten Conference, the University of Illinois is excited to welcome the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California as the Big Ten's newest members. UCLA and USC are preeminent academic institutions with robust, successful athletic traditions. They stand as two of the most recognizable, celebrated brands in higher education and intercollegiate athletics, and their institutional values and forward-looking vision align with those of our existing membership. We are excited to have them as peers, colleagues, and competitors. College athletics is in a period of intense disruption, with change occurring rapidly around us. For the Big Ten to retain our position as one of the nation's preeminent conferences, we must continue to be strategic in our thinking, bold in our decisions, and precise in our execution. Today's news demonstrates all of these qualities and represents a monumental moment in the history of the Big Ten Conference. We thank Commissioner Kevin Warren and the Big Ten staff for their leadership. The University of Illinois is proud to be affiliated with the newly constituted Big Ten Conference, and we look forward to spirited, intense competition on the fields of play and productive, successful collaboration away from them.”
Statement from Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren:
“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. 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.”
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