UCLA and USC Expected to Leave Pac-12 for Big Ten

In recent years, as the Pac-12’s success in football has waned and the league has been left in shambles by a TV deal that pays schools tens of millions of dollars a year less than a Big Ten contract, schools like Alabama, Ohio, Georgia and Clemson routinely source elite talent from Southern California.

In addition to football and men’s basketball, UCLA and USC are heavily involved in so-called Olympic sports. USC, for example, has won national championships in beach volleyball, women’s track and field, and men’s tennis over the past decade. For its part, UCLA has recently won titles in baseball, beach volleyball, women’s gymnastics, women’s soccer, softball, and women’s tennis. Both schools have also won titles in water polo, which is not sponsored by Pac-12 for men or women.

The potential financial windfall overshadows the increased burden on athletes, whether they be football players or distance runners, who will regularly commute back and forth from Los Angeles to the remote campuses of State College, Pennsylvania; New Brunswick, New Jersey; and College Park, Maryland for the competition.

Deal could take the shadow off tenure Kevin Warrencommissioner of the Big Ten since 2019, who drew criticism in 2020 when his league originally decided not to play autumn football season due to the pandemic. Although the conference eventually reversed its decision and played part of its scheduled games, the episode has since followed Warren. (Pac-12, under Larry Scottalso canceled and resumed the 2020 football season.)

At the same time, the USC and UCLA chapters are throwing a sharp test for George Klyavkov, who became Pac-12 commissioner a year ago. Last August, following the Oklahoma and Texas decisions, the league said it had no plans to expand “at this time,” in part because of “the current competitiveness and cohesion of our 12 universities.”