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UCLA and USC Reportedly Set to Leave for Big Ten in Stunning Conference Realignment Twist

Plus thoughts on what it means and where we’re headed.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

If you thought the Great Realignment of College Athletics™ this last year was wild — with Texas and OU leaving the Big 12 for the SEC — then boy oh boy do we have another twist that tangles up league affiliation and the hierarchy of college athletics all the more.

According to a report from Pac-12 insider Jon Wilner on Thursday — someone who, by the way, would absolutely know such things — UCLA and USC are reportedly planning to leave the league for the Big Ten as early as 2024. Wilner notes that the move has not been finalized, but one this big likely wouldn’t have leaked unless it was all but in need of a rubber stamp.

There is a lot at play here, but a few factors to keep in mind considering this reported move, which I have no reason to dispute as false. First off: the Big Ten is in the midst of negotiating its new TV contract, according to Dan Wetzel. This is one helluva ace in the hole to present to broadcasters. UCLA and USC are major draws regardless of conference affiliation. In the Big Ten, they’ll be even more valuable.

Another thing to keep in mind here is that the fallout will be dramatic. Just last year, the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 announced an alliance — yes, an ALLIANCE — that would, as they put it, be an agreement to provide “a collaborative approach surrounding the future evolution of college athletics and scheduling.” This was in direct response to the SEC forming its own super-conference when it cut the Big 12 at its knees by nabbing OU and Texas. That alliance, for now, has at the very least been strained — if not dead outright. Good luck playing nice after this, Big Ten and Pac-12!

One last consideration is that this is probably mostly good news for the Big 12. The Pac-12 losing two of its biggest programs can do nothing but help the Big 12. And the Big 12 already has a head start in remaking its perception after losing OU and Texas, with BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF all set to join the league in a few years.

This feels very much like a bombshell report out of nowhere, but at the same time, realignment is evolving and ever-changing. There was some of it last year, there’s more of it this year and there’s probably going to be more in the future. That’s what happens when millions and millions of dollars are at stake with TV deals and the streaming landscape changing. More of this is coming. And don’t say Mike Gundy didn’t warn you!

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