Opinion | Big Ten gains significant edge adding UCLA and USC

With two Los Angeles-based universities joining the conference in 2024, along with a new media rights deal in the works, the Big Ten has leverage in the new college athletics landscape.

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Grace Smith

Michigan offensive lineman Mica Gelb holds up a “B1G” sign after the Big Ten Championship game between No. 13 Iowa and No. 2 Michigan at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. The Wolverines became Big Ten Champions after defeating the Hawkeyes, 42-3.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter


It seemed unfathomable over a year ago that UCLA and USC would want to join the Big Ten, but here we are. And the conference has garnered a significant edge.

Shockwaves were sent around the college athletics world when syndicated Pac-12 reporter Jon Wilner tweeted midday on June 30 that the two-storied Los Angeles universities were planning to cut ties with the Pac-12 and enter the Big Ten as early as 2024.

The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors announced that evening it voted unanimously to admit UCLA and USC to the conference, effective Aug. 2, 2024.

The Big Ten is historically grounded in the Midwest, but in today’s landscape, geography is of the smallest concerns. Now, it’s all about who can leverage the most power in the nation, and a lot of that power comes from media rights. Fortunately, for those who support Big Ten programs, the conference is on the winning end of the battle.

When Texas and Oklahoma revealed in the summer of 2021 that they would jump from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference in 2025, it commenced a new era of conference realignment. The already dominant SEC, known for producing five of the last eight college football national champions, is gaining two nationally recognized colleges that will turn it into a super conference — athletically and financially.

With that, it made the other four Power 5 conferences — the Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference, and Pac-12 — realize they must fight back if they wished to remain competitive. The Big 12 accepted Houston, Cincinnati, Central Florida, and BYU as members that will join in 2023.

On the other hand, the Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 formed “The Alliance,” which was an unofficial agreement among the conferences that they would work together on a variety of issues such as nonconference football scheduling, per The Athletic.

RELATED: USC, UCLA to join Big Ten in 2024

“The Alliance” just served as a counter to the SEC but didn’t show any valuable financial benefit for the Big Ten. Yet, by being in the U.S.’s second-largest media market, UCLA and USC turning into Big Ten members is a massive gain.

The current Big Ten media contract with ESPN and FOX expires at the end of the 2022-23 academic year, and the conference’s new media contract is still up for negotiations, though Sports Business Journal reported Fox Sports has reached a deal to carry at least half of the conference’s package.

According to the outlet, the Big Ten will become the first college conference to earn over $1 billion a year when it settles its next media-rights contract. The Athletic projected in March that the Big Ten would distribute $100 million annually per school by the end of the decade. That was all written before the Big Ten brought in UCLA and USC as future members.

Imagine what the pocketbooks of Big Ten programs will look like in a few years. Big Ten football teams could become competitive with the SEC as the nation’s two super conferences. Additionally, every Big Ten sport will benefit from UCLA and USC joining the conference with the upcoming media-rights deal.

There’s a reason Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted unanimously. Traveling now is not like it was when the conference formed in the 1890s, though it won’t be the most convenient for its members, it will be affordable under the anticipated media-rights contract.

It doesn’t appear this is the end of conference realignment in the 2020s, and more colleges probably will enter the Big Ten. But whatever transpires in the upcoming years, the Big Ten will remain a dominant conference in the new collegiate athletics landscape.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


 

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