USC, UCLA planning to leave Pac-12 for Big Ten in 2024 with announcement imminent

Pac-12 powerhouses USC and UCLA are finalizing plans to leave the conference for the Big Ten as early as the 2024 athletic season, sources tell CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander and Dennis Dodd. Though the move is not yet official, it appears as if the Big Ten is aiming to make a significant acquisition that will change the college sports landscape.

An announcement to address USC and UCLA’s intensions is expected Thursday afternoon, sources close to the situation tell Dodd. USC and UCLA first need to inform the Pac-12 of their decisions to leave the conference before applying for membership to the Big Ten. At that point, the Big Ten can vote on whether to expand their league, a development that could occur as early as Thursday evening.

“Everything is on the table,” a Pac-12 source tells Norlander, who also reports that Big Ten presidents and athletic directors met Wednesday night to discuss adding USC and UCLA to the conference.

The transition of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten would be similar to the one that rocked college sports last summer when Texas and Oklahoma opted to leave the Big 12 for the SEC, a move set to sweat ahead of the 2025 season.

That kicked off a realignment bonanza in which the Big 12, American and other conferences saw teams move in and out of their membership. A similar situation will likely occur here if USC and UCLA formalize their intentions to depart the Pac-12. The move would also constitute a stunning divergence in direction for UCLA and Cal, partners in the University of California system.

In acquiring the Trojans and Bruins, the Big Ten would transform from largely a midwest conference to one that extends from New Jersey to California. It would be a significant shift in the college sports landscape at the Power Five level, which has largely been localized with teams mostly belonging to leagues in their geographic area.

“This is all about SC at the end of the day: SC’s willingness to move, and then they need a partner in crime,” a Pac-12 source told Dodd. “This comes down to USC’s football value that is driving this and the LA market.”

USC and UCLA would bring the Big Ten to a total of 16 teams, the same number as the SEC once Texas and Oklahoma officially join. The ACC has 14 teams, while the Big 12 will settle at 12 with BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF in the fold after UT and OU depart.

This acquisition would be a significant coup for fourth-year Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, the first Power Five boss to cancel the 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news comes less than a year after the Big Ten and Pac-12 — along with the ACC — announced a strategic alliance following the SEC’s additions of Texas and Oklahoma. That alliance was light on substantive action from the start, and the Big Ten’s poaching of two Pac-12 powers only further undermines the notion that the leagues will work together in combatting the SEC’s growing hold on power in college sports.

With the Pac-12’s media rights deal expiring in 2024 and the Big Ten in the midst of negotiating a new media rights deal that could start as soon as next season and reportedly exceed $1 billion per year, the timing is natural for such discussions. The expiration of that Pac-12 deal should leave USC and UCLA with little financial burden should they ultimately choose to depart for the Big Ten.

The San Jose Mercury-News’ Jon Wilner first reported that USC and UCLA were planning to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten.

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