In an absolute shocker, USC and UCLA are planning to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. This move will send tremors throughout college sports, paving the way for megaconferences to form.
This isn't the first major move to happen, though. Oklahoma and Texas declared they were moving to the SEC last year, which makes this move just another domino. Still, it's noteworthy that the Big Ten is gaining the Los Angeles market, prepping it for a colossal battle with the SEC for college sports supremacy.
But let's look at college sports for a moment. This has been a long time coming, making it a formality that the NCAA would reach this point. There is a myriad of factors that led to this exact moment, with the following leading to these seismic moves.
Big Money Deals: Everyone knows that the SEC gets a lot of money from ESPN. We're talking about a ten-year deal beginning in 2024. The deal is worth $3 billion and gives Gene Sankey all sorts of money to boost the conference. This deal was a major factor in Oklahoma and Texas bolting the Big 12; they wanted a slice of the money. And who could blame Joe Castiglione? Money has become a corrupting factor in college sports, providing plenty of influence on who dominates the landscape. For how monumental the NIL ruling has been, it has also played a major factor. Schools like Ohio State, USC, and Alabama can shell out millions of dollars to the best athletes, bringing them to their schools. Of course, the Big Ten has a deal of their own with Fox Sports, which brought USC and UCLA in. With these gargantuan television deals in place, it sets the table for megaconferences to emerge.
Revenue: Speaking of money, it also goes back to how much each conference is making. The top two conferences in revenue were, of course, the Big Ten ($57.2 million per school) and the SEC ($54.3 million). The Big 12 was in third with $40.6 million, followed by the Pac-12 ($34.4 million) and the ACC ($30.9 million). This has been a byproduct of television deals, dominance in college sports, and recognizable brand names like Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, and Georgia. This is also due to megadonors boosting the schools themselves. Just look at Phil Knight and Oregon. These cash cows are also why big brands like the Trojans and Sooners are jumping ship. Could we see universities like Kansas and Oregon make the move as well?
Weak Leadership: Inept commissioners also bear the burden of the current college landscape. I'm talking about the likes of Larry Scott. Scott didn't do much for the Pac-12 after creating the Pac-12 Network, aside from trying to lure in the Sooners and Longhorns. In fact, the Pac-12 Network has been an albatross for the conference, generating the smallest revenue among Power 5 conferences. Scott's ineptitude also came from moving the Pac-12 headquarters to San Francisco and trying to shake up the conference in football with 9 AM local start times and late-night clashes. "Pac-12 After Dark" sounds like an exciting concept in theory. However, it's hard for Pac-12 fans and alumni to catch football games that start well past 10 PM EST. Scott's incompetence and ego ruined the Pac-12, leading to a new powershift. The same thing can be said for the Big 12, which has lost members to the SEC before. Texas A&M and Missouri jumped ship to the SEC, leading to Colorado (Pac-12) and Nebraska (Big Ten) leaving as well. Now, Bob Bowlsby has this as his legacy, hurting how Big 12 fans will remember him.