It may feel like USC and UCLA’s move to the Big Ten Conference Thursday was the start of another wave of realignment, but in truth it was just the next ridge — albeit a massive one that’s still shaking the foundation of collegiate sports – in the wave that started last July.
If Texas and Oklahoma haven’t dropped the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference, it’s hard to imagine USC and UCLA feeling they have no choice but to cast aside a century-old tradition of the Pac-12 conference in order to to remain viable.
While the Trojans and Bruins’ escape from the Pac-12’s uncertainty should not be viewed as an action in its own right, it can certainly be argued that this is the transition that completes the transition from a “power five” to a full “power two.” “
The SEC and the Big Ten are separating themselves from the rest of college sports. They have no peers and will continue to discover this. If you’re not at their club, it doesn’t matter unless you’re Notre Dame, which is why everyone from Eugene, Ore. to Clemson, SC to Miami will be trying to make their way into the club Ark in the next years.
How exclusive will the Power Two be now that they’re both in 16 schools? What’s the next move for the Big Ten (and Fox)? How will the SEC (and ESPN) react? Is the Pac-12 doomed? Let’s dive into the latest realignment craze.
The Notre Dame Question
Multiple sources told The Times that the Big Ten will not be adding another Pac-12 school at this time. It would have been a natural guess that an Oregon-Washington pairing would follow their longtime conference brethren, but that’s ruled out by the Big Ten board for now. Perhaps USC and UCLA preferences – Fox’s priority because of the Los Angeles brands and market – have something to do with it?
That means Notre Dame will be the next driver in any move with the Big Ten, which the Fighting Irish have long coveted for all the obvious reasons – brand power, football heritage, academic reputation and location.
If Notre Dame rejects the Big Ten and elects to remain independent in football and play other sports in the Atlantic Coast Conference, it’s possible the Big Ten will take a hiatus and continue to use the remaining Pac-12 brands and ACC -Consider brands that fit the Big Ten model, like North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia Tech.
But make no mistake, Notre Dame is the ultimate and the Big Ten have more to offer the Irish than ever – a chance to share a conference with historic rivals USC along with fellow rivals Michigan, Purdue and Michigan State; a chance to launch its take on media rights into a new stratosphere; and a chance to earn a rightful place at the power brokers’ table for the future.
Notre Dame must be getting the itch. If it doesn’t, its longtime TV partner NBC will have good reason to make it consider the Big Ten’s offer. NBC is reportedly wanting a Big Ten game as part of the conference’s new media rights package.
When you remember TV dictating all those dominoes, it’s a lot easier to wrap your head around Notre Dame and say yes to the Big Ten.
Who would join Notre Dame?
While sources believe the Big Ten are done poaching the Pac-12, that calculus could change if the Fighting Irish join as the 17th member.
Stanford is becoming a much more attractive option than it is right now, as the Cardinal represents another annual Notre Dame foe the Irish would like to keep playing.
If you put yourself in the minds of the snotty Big Ten presidents and chancellors, Stanford simply has a different institutional aura to Oregon and Washington. All types of colleges want to be associated with Stanford. While the soccer and men’s basketball teams are currently down, the Big Ten could benefit from Stanford’s excellence in all sports.
It’s a leap to say that adding Stanford to the Big Ten completely takes the Bay Area TV market, but its location in a densely populated region can’t hurt its case either.
The Cardinal would be a more palatable West Coast partner for USC and UCLA than the Ducks and Huskies. Both LA schools are fed up with Oregon’s Nike Flash coming to Southern California and stealing top talent, and USC and UCLA’s move to the Big Ten has hurt the Ducks.
What can the Pac-12 do?
It cannot be overstated how debilitating the loss of USC, UCLA and the LA market is for the Pac-12. There’s a reason Apple reportedly jumped back into the mix after the news for some of the Big Ten’s rights package. A Pac-12 without the Trojans and Bruins will struggle to find a foothold at the negotiating table when Commissioner George Kliavkoff negotiates the league’s next media rights deals next year.
The Pac-12 announced Friday that it will be actively looking for an expansion. But who would join besides schools from Mountain West?
The Pac-12 probably could have picked the remaining Big 12 schools last summer. Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kansas and co. all felt spurned by the Pac-12’s lack of interest in what they had to offer. Do you think they will come here now knowing that the remaining big name programs will desperately face the Big Ten and probably the SEC?
The Big 12 actually have a more stable situation now than the Pac-12 and would likely have some success ambushing some of the Pac-12.
At least the schools in the Big 12 (to which we added Brigham Young, Central Florida, Cincinnati, and Houston) already know that the Big Ten and the SEC have minimal interest and can act strategically to secure the third or fourth best conference for the build future.
Would the Big 12 now be attractive to Arizona and the state of Arizona? We’ll find out soon enough.
SEC eyeing ACC?
Thursday was not a good day for the SEC and ESPN. Are you afraid of the Big Ten and Fox now? Probably not. Any plans for further expansion will likely be dusted off if they haven’t already.
Florida State, Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech are alluring football brands. Pairing North Carolina and Duke with Kentucky would instantly make the SEC the premier basketball conference.
The ACC’s media rights contract with ESPN expires in 2036. The schools received $36.1 million in distributions for the 2020-21 fiscal year, and given what the Big Ten and the SEC are poised to bring in for their schools, that won’t be enough to keep their top brands happy keep.
Since ESPN owns the rights to the SEC and ACC, the network should have the final say.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2022-07-02/big-ten-expansion-impacts-usc-ucla-notre-dame-football Big Ten expansion: Impact on Notre Dame and college football