USC, UCLA plan to move from Pac-12 to Big Ten as early as 2024, sources say


USC, UCLA plan to move from Pac-12 to Big Ten as early as 2024, sources say

USC and UCLA, two of Pac-12’s flagship programs, plan to leave the conference for the Big Ten as early as 2024, and a switch is believed to be imminent, sources confirmed to ESPN on Thursday.

There is still a formal notification process as the two schools must notify the Pac-12 of their intention to leave. USC and UCLA must also formally apply to the Big Ten. According to a source, that process is ongoing.

Multiple sources told ESPN on Thursday that the move is expected to happen. A source called the next steps “formalities” and an announcement could come within the next 24 hours.

A source said research into the finances and requirements for the move had been underway for weeks. While finances play a big role in the move, competitiveness, brand and the overall landscape of the sport’s future have played a bigger role.

“USC and UCLA must make decisions about how best to position themselves over the long term,” a source familiar with the move told ESPN. “The future is so uncertain that we must act from a position of strength.”

The Mercury News first reported on the proposed departures of USC and UCLA.

The reason this move would be less disruptive than possible moves in the ACC is that USC and UCLA have a rights award tied to the current Pac-12 television deal, which expires after the 2023 football season and 2023-24 school year. Therefore, both schools are expected to be able to go into the league for the 2024/25 season and not suffer a financial penalty.

For years, Pac-12 officials had urged both Los Angeles schools to extend grants of rights. The fact that they didn’t indicated that they had bigger ambitions.

“We just got Sooner’d and Horn’d,” a senior university official from one of the Pac-12 schools told ESPN, referring to the decision by Texas and Oklahoma, the Big 12 conference for the SEC, last year to leave .

The financial pressures the Pac-12 is feeling are similar to those in the ACC and beyond, as conference revenue projections — which can vary and aren’t always linear — lead the SEC and Big Ten to nearly double that earn some of the other Power 5 leagues later in the decade. This financial pressure left USC and UCLA with a choice between bullying the Pac-12 for unequal sales shares or going elsewhere and having a seat at the table long-term. The impact of the finances will allow them not only to remain competitive in football nationally, but to maintain support for all sports, including women’s sports and non-revenue sports.

“When Texas and Oklahoma went to the SEC, it became obvious to those schools that there was only one option,” the source familiar with the move said.

It will be interesting to see how this plays into Fox’s upcoming television deal with the Big Ten, which is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. The addition of the two schools would bring in both the west coast and one of the most attractive media markets in the country.

The move hurts the future of the Pac-12, as Fox’s additional investment in UCLA and USC inventory in the Big Ten means investment in the Pac-12, in which Fox has long been involved, will be significantly reduced. This move leaves the conference with Oregon and Washington as the top schools after losing the two biggest brand names.

“I always felt like UCLA couldn’t leave Cal,” a Pac-12 source told ESPN. “There is no more political state than that or system than that. That was very surprising.”

Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff was not immediately available for comment.

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