A smattering of reactions to the news that USC and UCLA are leaving the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten:
Source: USC and UCLA are planning to leave for the Big Ten as early as 2024. Move *has not been finalized* at the highest levels of power.— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) June 30, 2022
*As someone who remembered the hijinks of conference realignment in the early 2010s, I was a little skeptical this deal would come to fruition after Jon Wilner of Pac-12 Hotline dropped that bomb Thursday. Ask Oklahoma’s administration about the importance of that caveat regarding finalizing the move at the “highest levels of power” when it involves the Pac-12.
Of course, that was about the Conference of Champions members turning up their noses at the people from Dust Bowl country. The Pac-12 doesn’t get a say in two schools going rogue, and that Big Ten paycheck was always going to be too much to pass up. (Yes, the Sooners and Big 12 know about that all too well.)
I haven’t shed any tears over the Pac-12’s struggles since OU’s rebuffed move to join the conference. However, I will admit that despite the pretentiousness, I dug the vibe. The league consisted of 10 core schools that shared a common geography, history and sensibility. They generally did things the way they wanted. Whatever your opinion of former commissioner Larry Scott, his play to build the Pac-16 with an independent media network clearly rattled ESPN.
Truth be told, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would have felt out of place out west, but that’s also what made the Pac-10/Pac-12 what it was. It did it’s own thing.
*The Big East has the right idea about how to form a conference: a bunch of Catholic schools (plus UConn) that like basketball a lot. It has a fun men’s basketball tournament in New York at the end of every season. That’s far superior to where college football is driving the other conferences.
*Call me naive, but I don’t necessarily share in the idea that the B1G’s power play is going to set off a frenzy of other moves in the very near future. The news that the B1G isn’t looking at any other additions from the Pac-12 right now would seem to confirm my suspicion.
Multiple sources tell @latimes that no other Pac-12 members are expected to be added to the Big Ten at this time.— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) July 1, 2022
Oregon, Washington, Stanford, etc. will not be following USC and UCLA.
In reality, nothing seems likely to happen until Notre Dame makes a call on its future. The Fighting Irish come away from Thursday’s drama as arguably the biggest winners of the fallout, in my opinion.
ND’s deal with the ACC, which allowed the Irish to maintain their independence in football and stabilized the conference, apparently isn’t so expensive to break. If the Golden Domers do feel like the time has come to give up their football independence, joining the B1G probably looks like more appealing with another rival in USC joining the fold. On the other hand, they could potentially use their leverage to extract any other concessions they want from the ACC (or ESPN).
Expect ND to play coy and possibly stab someone in the back, per tradition. Also, don’t make the mistake of discounting just how much the Irish alums love their football independence.
*Two more things to keep in mind about the ACC:
- Historically speaking, many of the schools other conferences might view as the most desirable expansion candidates like being there; and
- The members signed a grant of rights.
The first point speaks to why schools like North Carolina may not be so easy to pick off. The Tar Heels leaving behind Tobacco Road and all that for the B1G or SEC makes sense on a spreadsheet, but it may not when it comes to what really matters to them. Even a package deal with Duke may not be that enticing for UNC.
The second point speaks to the potential difficulty on a practical level in prying one or two teams loose from the conference. If schools like Clemson and Florida State are truly working to jump ship, they may want to court other traveling parties to join them. Should probably consult a lawyer about that.