USC and UCLA, two of the most prominent universities on the West Coast, are reportedly in talks to join the Big Ten Conference.
The possibility was first reported by Jon Wilner, of Pac-12 Hotline, and later confirmed by The Athletic, among other outlets.
Source: USC and UCLA are planning to leave for the Big Ten as early as 2024. Move *has not been finalized* at the highest levels of power.— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) June 30, 2022
The Big Ten currently includes 14 schools: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana, Rutgers, Maryland, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue, Illinois, and Northwestern.
The most recent additions to the Big Ten, Rutgers and Maryland, extended the conference’s footprint all the way to the East Coast. Adding a pair of universities from California would obviously be an even more drastic move in the other 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 would 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, would give the Big Ten another football blue blood alongside Michigan and Ohio State, and UCLA would bring with it the most storied basketball tradition in the league.
Wilner suggests the move could happen as early as 2024, but nobody from the Big Ten or any schools involved have publicly confirmed the reports.