It's official – the Bruins and Trojans are moving conferences.
UCLA Athletics and USC Athletics have both announced they will be leaving the Pac-12 and joining the Big Ten ahead of the 2024-2025 academic year. The whole ordeal came to a head in less than a day, with reports about the impending move first surfacing earlier Thursday via Jon Wilner of The Mercury News.
According to several reports, the Bruins and Trojans' combined leadership approached the Big Ten about joining the conference. Big Ten leadership had an unofficial straw poll Wednesday night to gauge their interest in expanding, and UCLA and USC officially submitted their applications to join Thursday afternoon.
The Big Ten met Thursday at 6 p.m. EST and accepted the two Los Angeles schools' applications.
UCLA chancellor Gene Block and athletic director Martin Jarmond issued a joint statement about the move Thursday evening:
Dear Bruin Community:
For the past century, decisions about UCLA Athletics have always been guided by what is best for our student-athletes, first and foremost, and our fans. Our storied athletics program, based in one of the biggest media markets in the nation, has always had unique opportunities and faced unique challenges. In recent years, however, seismic changes in collegiate athletics have made us evaluate how best to support our student-athletes as we move forward. After careful consideration and thoughtful deliberation, UCLA has decided to leave the Pac-12 Conference and join the Big Ten Conference at the start of the 2024–25 season.
UCLA has deeply valued our membership in the Pac-12 for many years, and we intend to be a member of the conference for the next two years. We have grown close to the other member schools and have tremendous respect for their commitment to the student-athlete experience. The Pac-12 has always shared our values and continues to innovate, working hard on behalf of its student-athletes and many fans. At the same time, each school faces its own unique challenges and circumstances, and we believe this is the best move for UCLA at this time. For us, this move offers greater certainty in rapidly changing times and ensures that we remain a leader in college athletics for generations to come.
As the oldest NCAA Division I athletic conference in the United States and with a footprint that will now extend from the Pacific to the Atlantic, Big Ten membership offers Bruins exciting new competitive opportunities and a broader national media platform for our student-athletes to compete and showcase their talents. Specifically, this move will enhance Name, Image and Likeness opportunities through greater exposure for our student-athletes and offer new partnerships with entities across the country.
Entry into the Big Ten will also help ensure that UCLA preserves and maintains all 25 current teams and more than 700 student-athletes in our program. Additionally, it means enhanced resources for all of our teams, from academic support to mental health and wellness. And although this move increases travel distances for teams, the resources offered by Big Ten membership may allow for more efficient transportation options. We would also explore scheduling accommodations with the Big Ten that best support our student-athletes’ academic pursuits.
For our fans, Big Ten membership equates to better television time slots for our road games, but the same number of home games either at the Rose Bowl, in Pauley Pavilion or other UCLA venues. We will make efforts to preserve our traditional regional rivalries and are pleased that our crosstown rival, USC, will also be joining the Big Ten in 2024–25. While we are fierce competitors on the field, we have a rich tradition of collaboration that we look forward to continuing.
We recognize these are big changes. We value the talent and dedication of our student-athletes as well as the passion of Bruins fans far and wide. The best way to respect that is to protect our program from the great uncertainty it would face if we did not make this transition. Because of our unique circumstances, we believe this is the right move for the UCLA Bruins and the right time. We hope you will share our enthusiasm as we take this step to preserve the legacy, tradition and high standards that have epitomized the UCLA Bruins for the century that has passed and the centuries that lie ahead.
Gene D. Block
The Alice and Nahum Lainer Family Director of Athletics
UCLA and USC had both been members of the Pac-12 since its earliest iterations, all the way back in the 1920s. However, the conference hadn't sent a representative to the College Football Playoff in five years and revenues were down across the board.
According to USA Today, Big Ten schools earned payouts that ranged from $43.1 million to $49.1 million in the 2021 fiscal year, while Pac-12 schools earned payouts of $19.8 million.
With the Big Ten set to start a new media deal in 2023, multiple reports project member schools to earn somewhere near $100 million dollars annually. The Big Ten now has roots in five of the country's seven top media markets in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
UCLA and USC joining the Big Ten comes less than a year after Texas and Oklahoma announced they would be joining the SEC. BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF are also set to join the Big 12 in 2023.
The movement might not be done, either, with multiple reports claiming the Big Ten could continue to add new members. Several reports have Oregon and Washington as the next potential candidates to join the conference, while Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah have all been tied to the Big 12.
Conference realignment, NIL and the transfer portal have dominated the discussions around collegiate sports for the past 12 months, and that does not appear to be changing anytime soon – especially for UCLA.