Bombshell: USC and UCLA leaving Pac-12 for Big Ten
In a move that apparently caught all of the Pac-12 Conference leadership by surprise, UCLA and USC on Thursday afternoon announced that they will join the Big Ten Conference. beginning in the 2024-25 academic year.
The move leaves in doubt the future of the Pac-12 Conference, and raises significant questions about the financial stability of athletics programs at Oregon and Oregon State.
The Pac-12 was to begin negotiating a new media rights deal soon. The loss of the Los Angeles market means any media rights deal will be worth significantly less than what was hoped.
For the Los Angeles schools, the motivation for the move is a significant increase in revenue. John Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, who first reported the news Thursday morning, estimates each program will bring in at least $100 million a year because of the Big Ten's television deal with FOX, double what they get as Pac-12 members.
Like last summer, when Texas and Oklahoma announced they would leave the Big 12 for the SEC, there was no hint at this development until the day it became official. Big Ten chancelers voted Thursday afternoon to approve admitting UCLA and USC.
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The Pac-12 Conference issued this statement:
"While we are extremely surprised and disappointed by the news coming out of UCLA and USC today, we have a long and storied history in athletics, academics, and leadership in supporting student-athletes that we're confident will continue to thrive and grow into the future. The Pac-12 is home to many of the world's best universities, athletic programs and alumni, representing one of the most dynamic regions in the United States. We've long been known as the Conference of Champions, and we're unwavering in our commitment to extend that title. We will continue to develop new and innovative programs that directly benefit our member institutions, and we look forward to partnering with current and potential members to pioneer the future of college athletics together."
The reaction from Oregon State leadership:
Interim President Becky Johnson:
"Oregon State University is surprised and disappointed by the decision of USC and UCLA to leave the Pac-12 Conference. OSU continues to strongly believe in the continuing strength of the Pac-12 Conference as a conference of champions made up of globally recognized Tier 1 research universities. The strength and momentum of Oregon State in teaching, research, service and athletic competition is profound and will continue."
Athletics Director Scott Barnes:
"Oregon State University is aware of the news that UCLA and USC have officially been accepted to join the Big Ten Conference beginning in 2024. We are engaged in ongoing discussions with the Pac-12 Conference and Oregon State University leadership to ensure that Oregon State and the Pac-12 remain at the highest level of intercollegiate membership and competition nationally. We are very proud of the continuing accomplishments of OSU student-athletes and coaches in athletic competition, in the classroom and in the community. There is significant momentum throughout Oregon State University and within Beaver Athletics, including transformative projects like Completing Reser Stadium, a national best-in-class football facility with year-round programs and facilities for OSU students, faculty and staff. This past academic year 14 of our 17 programs were represented in postseason competition, 21 student-athletes received All-America recognition and five OSU coaches received Coach of the Year honors. We will work tirelessly and proactively in partnership with the Pac-12 to maintain this momentum for all of Beaver Nation."
As of 6 p.m. Thursday, there was not a public statement from the University of Oregon.
There has been speculation that Oregon and Washington might be interested in following the LA schools to the Big Ten, and tweets indicating the Big Ten won't stop at 18 schools. However, Clemson and Florida State — and perhaps Notre Dame — would be more attractive programs than the Ducks and Huskies.
And, if Oregon and/or Washington bolts, the Pac-12 (or Pac-??) likely doesn't survive at all.
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