Bombshell! USC and UCLA Are Reportedly Heading to the Big Ten
All the rave reviews of Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff's first year in office may have been somewhat premature.
Word leaked Thursday that USC and UCLA were in negotiations with the Big Ten to join the conference as early as 2024.
Losing the two LA schools would render a crippling, if not fatal blow to the Pac-12.
With all due respect to Phil Knight and Oregon, USC and UCLA are the two biggest names in the conference and its two biggest attractions from a media rights standpoint, because of the size of the LA market.
Historically, the most significant achievements in both football and basketball have come from USC teams coached by John McKay and Pete Carroll, and from UCLA basketball teams coached by John Wooden.
To be fair, it's not Kliavkoff's fault. For the last several years the conference has been losing ground, largely as the result of the disastrous reign of commissioner Larry Scott, which brought a failed TV network, below-market media rights payouts, late night kickoffs, and a general loss of stature.
Pac-12 teams, faced with a huge revenue deficit, have been unable to match the coaching salaries, recruiting budgets, facilities and media exposure of the SEC and Big Ten. The conference hasn't won a national championship in football since 2004 and basketball since 1997. Pac-12 teams have appeared in the College Football Playoff only twice in seven years.
We have suggested previously in this space that during the next five years college football will move toward a Premier League type setup with the top 30-40 programs. The moves of Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC and USC and UCLA to the Big Ten will hasten this evolution, producing two 16-team leagues that will include almost all of the top schools. Oregon, Clemson, Miami and perhaps Utah, Washington and Oklahoma State could be added in the future.
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 will likely consider a merger with the Big 12, another conference that just lost its two most prestigious members. (And coincidentally, another conference that just hired an entertainment executive as its commissioner).
That merger may stop the bleeding, but it won't prevent the inevitable descent to second tier status.