USC, UCLA officially join Big Ten, effective in 2024, will give conference 16 members

Big Ten expands footprint all the way to West Coast

Kazmeir Allen #19 of the UCLA Bruins makes a catch for a touchdown past Isaac Taylor-Stuart #6 of the USC Trojans, to take a 21-10 lead, during the second quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 20, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. ((Photo by Harry How/Getty Images))

USC and UCLA, the two most prominent universities in the Pac-12, have officially joined the Big Ten, effective in 2024, and will give the conference 16 members.

The possibility of this move was first reported Thursday afternoon, but both schools had reportedly been discussing their desire to join the Big Ten with conference officials for much longer.

USC and UCLA will join 14 schools that are already primary members of the Big Ten: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana, Rutgers, Maryland, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue, Illinois, and Northwestern.

“Ultimately, the Big Ten is the best home for USC and Trojan athletics as we move into the new world of collegiate sports,” said USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn. “We are excited that our values align with the league’s member institutions. We also will benefit from the stability and strength of the conference; the athletic caliber of Big Ten institutions; the increased visibility, exposure, and resources the conference will bring our student-athletes and programs; and the ability to expand engagement with our passionate alumni nationwide.”

Before Thursday, the most recent additions to the Big Ten had been Rutgers and Maryland. That move was made with the intention of extending the conference’s footprint to the East Coast. Adding a pair of universities from California obviously does the same -- albeit more drastically -- in the opposite direction.

Conference realignment -- mostly driven by college football -- has picked up steam since the introduction of the College Football Playoff and increasingly lucrative television deals between networks and leagues.

The Big Ten and SEC -- and to a lesser extent, the ACC -- have become more and more attractive destinations for power players in other conferences. The most recent example was Big 12 behemoths Texas and Oklahoma announcing a future move to the SEC.

The additions of USC and UCLA give the Big Ten by far the widest geographical footprint compared to any other conference -- admittedly, it would be difficult to go much wider within the continental U.S.

USC, in particular, brings another football blue blood to the Big Ten, joining Michigan and Ohio State. UCLA, meanwhile, immediately becomes the most storied basketball tradition in the league, supplanting the likes of Indiana and Michigan State.

“Over the past three years, we have worked hard to ground our university decisions in what is best for our students,” said USC President Carol L. Folt. “With the Big Ten, we are joining a storied conference that shares our commitment to academic excellence and athletic competitiveness, and we are positioning USC and our student-athletes for long-term success and stability amidst the rapidly evolving sports media and collegiate athletics landscapes. We are delighted to begin this new chapter in 2024.”

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.