Sources confirmed to ESPN Thursday that USC and UCLA, two of the major Pac-12 programs, are planning to leave the conference for the Big Ten as early as 2024, and a move is considered imminent.
There is still an official notification process in place, with both schools having to tell Pac-12 of their intentions to leave. USC and UCLA must also formally apply to the Big Ten. According to the source, this process is underway.
Multiple sources told ESPN Thursday that the move is expected. A source described the next steps as “a formality,” and an announcement could come within the next 24 hours.
A source said that the exploration of financial resources and what is required for action has been going on for weeks. While finances play a large role in this move, competitiveness, branding and the overall outlook for the sport’s future have played an even larger role.
“The USC and UCLA need to make decisions to put them in the best position for the long term,” a source familiar with the move told ESPN. “The future is so uncertain that we need to act from a position of strength.”
Mercury News first reported the news of the planned USC and UCLA departure.
The reason the move would be less annoying than potential moves in the ACC is that USC and UCLA have rights tied to the current Pac-12 television contract, which expires after the 2023 football season and the 2023-24 school year. For this reason, both schools are expected to go into the league for the 2024-25 season without incurring any financial penalty.
Pac-12 officials have been incentivizing the two Los Angeles schools for years to extend granting rights. The fact that they didn’t hint that they had more ambition.
“We just got Sooner’d and Horn’d,” a senior college official at a Pac-12 school told ESPN, referring to the decision last year by Texas and Oklahoma to leave the Big 12 conference for the SEC. .
The financial pressures felt by the Pac-12 are similar to those felt by the ACC and beyond, as conference revenue forecasts – which can vary and are not always linear – make the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Big Ten make double the amount of some other Power 5 tournaments in later in the decade. These financial pressures left the USC and UCLA with a choice to bully the Pac-12 for unequal revenue shares or to go elsewhere and have a seat at the table in the long run. The impact of financial resources will allow them not only to remain competitive at the national level in football but also to maintain support for all sports, including women’s sports and non-revenue sports.
“With Texas and Oklahoma going to the Securities and Exchange Commission, it has become clear to those schools that there is only one option,” the source familiar with the move said.
It will be interesting to see how this affects Fox’s upcoming TV deal with the Big Ten, which is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. The addition of the two schools will bring the West Coast and one of the most attractive media markets in the country.
The move is poignant for the future of the Pac-12, as Fox’s additional investment in UCLA and USC stock in the Big Ten means that investments in Pac-12, of which Fox has long owned a part, will decline significantly. The move leaves the conference with Oregon and Washington as its top schools after losing the two biggest brands.
“I’ve always been of the opinion that UCLA can’t leave Cal,” a source from Pac-12 told ESPN. “There is no more political state or regime than that. That was very surprising.”
PAC 12 commissioner George Klyavkov could not be reached for comment.
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