Just hours after the rumors first leaked, Big Ten leadership voted unanimously Thursday night to accept the membership bids of USC and UCLA, effective August 2, 2024.
“After receiving written applications from the two universities, Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren, alongside conference athletics directors and the Council of Presidents and Chancellors, evaluated the applications based on a dynamic model weighting four primary principles with supporting criteria,” the Big Ten said in a statement. “The principles include academics and culture; student-athlete welfare, competition, and logistics; commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in sports; and financial sustainability. The model allows the conference to analyze criteria in a strategic and effective manner.”
There was no mention of the gentleman’s agreement between the Pac-12, Big Ten, and ACC to not poach each other’s members, formed last summer after the SEC added Oklahoma and Texas.
“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,” Warren said. “I am thankful for the collaborative efforts of our campus leadership, athletic 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.”
UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond acknowledged the longer travel distances, but he said that the resources afforded by Big Ten membership could help the school solve transportation issues.
“Although this move increases travel distances for teams, the resources offered by Big Ten membership may allow for more efficient transportation options,” said Jarmond, who rose the administrative ranks at Ohio State under Gene Smith. “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 athletic director Mike Bohn also cited the resources of the Big Ten, which was expected to distribute more than $100 million annually to its member schools even before adding the L.A. powerhouses. Their addition stretches the Big Ten from coast to coast while unifying the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, and No. 9 television markets in the country between the conference’s soon-to-be 16 members.
“Ultimately, the Big Ten is the best home for USC and Trojan athletics as we move into the new world of collegiate sports,” Bohn said in a statement. “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 the Big Ten institutions; the increased visibility, exposure, and resources the conference will bring out student-athletes and programs; and the ability to expand engagement with our passionate alumni nationwide.”
In a statement, the Pac-12 said it was surprised and disappointed by the impending departure of UCLA and USC.
“While we are extremely surprised and disappointed by the news coming out of UCLA and USC today, we have a long and storied history in athletics, academics, and leadership in supporting student-athletes that we’re confident will continue to thrive and grow into the future,” the Pac-12 said in a statement. “The Pac-12 is home to many of the world’s best universities, athletic programs and alumni, representing one of the most dynamic regions in the United States. We’ve long been known as the Conference of Champions, and we’re unwavering in our commitment to extend that title. We will continue to develop new and innovative programs that directly benefit our member institutions, and we look forward to partnering with current and potential members to pioneer that future of college athletics together.”
The Big Ten is currently negotiating its next media rights deal. Its existing deals with ESPN and Fox run through the next academic year, 2022-23. Soon after news broke of USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten, the Sports Business Journal reported that Apple called the conference looking to re-engage in media-rights talks.
Sources also told the SBJ that the Big Ten had been in serious discussions with USC and UCLA about joining the conference for months, and formally submitted their applications for membership on Monday.
Schools that will remain in the Pac-12 (for now)
- Arizona State†*
- Oregon State
- Washington State*
* – sponsors women’s swimming (6 schools)
† – sponsors men’s swimming (5 schools)
Schools that will be in the new Big Ten
- Michigan State
- Ohio State†*
- Penn State†*
* – sponsors women’s swimming (14 schools)
† – sponsors men’s swimming (9 schools)