The college football world received a massive shockwave Thursday afternoon.
According to Pac-12 reporter Jon Wilner, USC and UCLA are planning to leave and join the Big Ten as early as 2024. While it is not official yet and the move has not been finalized, this would be yet another seismic shakeup to college football.
This is perhaps just the latest potential domino to fall as conference realignment continues to shake up the world of college athletics. Yet another pair of big-time programs could soon be announcing that they're set to join a bigger, more money-rich conference like the Big Ten.
Last July, Oklahoma and Texas both unanimously accepted invitations into the Southeastern Conference. The official timing of the move for the Sooners and Longhorns is still uncertain, but many feel that it's likely it will happen in either 2024 or 2025.
That move set off a chain reaction of conference realignment in which current AAC members Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF as well as independent BYU all announced their step up to the Power Five conference world by accepting invitations into the Big 12. The American Athletic Conference in turn picked up Alabama-Birmingham, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, and Texas-San Antonio.
Wilner's initial report has also since been confirmed by Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger.
If this goes through, it's a move on par with Oklahoma and Texas joining the SEC, and one that will allow the Big Ten to keep up or perhaps eclipse the SEC's drawing power in terms of television contract negotiations. Just to illustrate the type of financial pull the pairing of USC and UCLA might add to the Big Ten, Wilner reported that the two universities could top $100M annually in media rights if they join the league.
It's also another example of teams like USC and UCLA trying to stake their claim as national contenders by joining the best of the best. USC is still attempting to return to its glory years of the 2000s under former head coach Pete Carroll.
USC was as active as any team this offseason, giving their entire program a facelift with the aid of the transfer portal. Lincoln Riley, one of the hottest coaches in all of college football, made the big-money move to Southern California to take advantage of the massive talent pool the state has to offer. Freshman breakout star and former top-10 recruit Caleb Williams followed his coach in the first domino of many talented players flocking west in college football's California Gold Rush.
USC gave new quarterback Williams a dangerous weapon to play with, adding Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison to the fold from Pittsburgh. USC gained a valuable running back this offseason in Travis Dye, who rushed for over 1,200 yards and scored 16 times as a junior for Oregon last year. Sophomore receiver Mario Williams, a former four-star recruit, was joined by former four-star cornerback Latrell McCutchin in the exodus from Norman, Okla., to Southern California.
USC would be a massive get for the Big Ten, adding another potential top team who can take advantage of recruiting in the NIL era. USC is trying to build something special, and the next logical step is joining one of the two most powerful conferences in college football.
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