USC, UCLA voted in to join Big Ten in 2024, creating 16-team super conference
The Big Ten will soon stretch coast-to-coast.
Sources confirmed to the Free Press that USC and UCLA have been told their applications to join the Big Ten in 2024 have been accepted by the league's college presidents.
The move will take place on Aug. 2, 2024.
Thursday's actions come one year after Texas and Oklahoma announced they would be leaving the Big 12 for the SEC in 2025.
The move is for all sports for USC and UCLA, which have 21 and 20 varsity sports, respectively.
“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,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement Thursday night. “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.”
A source told the Free Press the presidents of the Big Ten schools met Wednesday night to agree to the deal in principle. While no formal vote took place, it was agreed the Big Ten wanted to add the two West Coast schools. Other potential schools were also discussed, but none of the other options are at the stage USC and UCLA sit.
The acquisition is one of the largest dominoes to fall in the changing college football landscape as the Power Five conferences — Big Ten, Big-12, SEC, ACC and Pac-12 — appear to be heading toward two super-conferences.
The Big Ten, which entered Thursday with 14 schools, last expanded in 2014 when it added Rutgers and Maryland. That was the second sign the Big Ten, a conference based largely in the Midwest, was willing to expand its footprint, after adding Nebraska as its 12th team in 2011.
This addition gives the Big Ten 16 schools, on par with the SEC when Texas and Oklahoma become members.
USC and UCLA, both based in Los Angeles, have roots with the Pac-12 dating to the 1920s and the Pacific Coast Conference. USC celebrated its 100th year in the conference, having joined the then-PCC in 1922. UCLA has been a member since 1928.
USC has played in a record 34 Rose Bowl games — which have traditionally pitted a Pac-12 team against a Big Ten team — and won a record 25 of them.
The Trojans also have 11 national championships in football, the most recent coming when they went back-to-back behind Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart in 2003-04.
UCLA has one national championship (1954) in football and has played in 12 Rose Bowl games, winning five, the last in 1986 against Iowa.
The Bruins are also possibly the most tradition-laden basketball program in the country. UCLA won 10 national championships from 1964-75 and added another in 1995. The Bruins hold the NCAA men's basketball record for most consecutive wins (88), a streak that spanned from 1971-74.
Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller alluded to the idea of possible conference realignment earlier this spring, at the MSU luncheon with the Detroit Economic Club in late May.
"There will be (conference realignment)," he said. "We're working through that."
Haller had words of welcome for the California schools on Thursday after the move was announced.
“We are excited to welcome UCLA and USC to the Big Ten conference," Haller said in a statement. "College athletics is changing, and bold action is required. This move further strengthens the Big Ten and Michigan State, and will benefit our student-athletes with additional opportunities and exposure. Michigan State is a national brand and has a strong base of alumni and fans in California, specifically in the Los Angeles area. We look forward to competing against these two premier institutions.”
Michigan State president Samuel L. Stanley Jr. echoed Haller in his statement:
"We are very excited to add two outstanding schools to the Big Ten conference, not only creating a more competitive atmosphere for our student athletes but also increasing MSU’s exposure nationwide. Both USC and UCLA are excellent competitors, which we welcome, and they share our value of creating a strong student athlete experience. Even more, they are also leading academic institutions, members of the Association of American Universities, with robust research prowess. They make our conference stronger in multiple ways. I support this expansion of the conference and the benefits it will bring to MSU.”
Earlier this spring, Warren told CBS Sports he expected a new media rights deal to come soon, with the current deal set to expire in 2023.
Sports Business Journal reported it could be a record-setting $1 billion per season, and that was before the announcement of the addition of USC and UCLA in the biggest TV market in the country.