In a startling and seismic shift in college athletics, the Big Ten voted Thursday to add Southern California and UCLA as conference members beginning in 2024.
The 16-team expansion will occur after current Pac-12 media rights contracts with Fox and ESPN expire and will make the Big Ten the first conference to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
The announcement, which caught the Pac-12 off guard, came nearly a year after Oklahoma and Texas officially accepted invitations to join the Southeastern Conference in July 2025.
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said USC and UCLA, both members of the Pac-12 and its previous iterations for nearly a century, had submitted applications for membership and the Council of the league’s presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to add the Los Angeles schools.
“Ultimately, the Big Ten is the best home for USC and Trojan athletics as we enter the new world of collegiate sports,” said USC athletic director Mike Bohn. “We are delighted that our values align with those of the league’s member institutions. We will also 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 to our student-athletes and programs; and the ability to expand engagement with our alumni nationwide.
The Big Ten builds on previous expansion into the nation’s biggest media markets, and the move allows the conference to keep pace with the SEC as one of the most powerful entities in college sports.
The Big Ten will win blueblood programs in football (USC) and basketball (UCLA) and marquee brands that will increase the value of the conference’s new media rights package currently being negotiated.
The loss of flagship schools like USC and UCLA is a blow to the Pac-12, which has a long and friendly relationship with the Big Ten, best exemplified by its Rose Bowl partnership.
“While we are extremely surprised and disappointed by the news from UCLA and USC today, we have a long and storied history in athletics, academics and leadership in supporting student-athletes who , we are confident, will continue to thrive and become the future,” the Pac-12 said in a statement.
The Pac-12’s next move is unknown, but adding schools to replace USC and UCLA is a possibility.
“We look forward to partnering with current and potential members to pioneer the future of college athletics together,” the Pac-12 said.
The Big Ten has expanded twice in recent years, with Nebraska in 2011 and Maryland and Rutgers in 2014.
USC and UCLA fit the academic profile of the Big Ten. Both schools are among the 65 members of the Association of American Universities, which is made up of top research universities. All Big Ten schools except Nebraska are members.
“From increased exposure and a broader national platform for our student-athletes, to enhanced resources for our teams, this move will help preserve the legacy of UCLA Athletics for generations to come,” said UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond.
“We have deeply enjoyed our membership in the Pac-12, and we have great respect for the conference and our other member institutions, but each school faces its own unique challenges and circumstances. We believe this is the right move for UCLA at the right time.
USC and UCLA are expected to significantly increase their revenues. The Pac-12 distributed just $19.8 million per school in fiscal year 2021, by far the least among the Power 5 conferences. The Big Ten’s distribution per school was $46.1 million , second only to the SEC’s $54.6 million.
The Pac-12 has struggled to get its conference television network unfollowing, while the Big Ten Network is the most established of the conference networks.
USC and UCLA would take a step forward in football, both in visibility and in competition.
The “Pac-12 After Dark” game shows that kick off mid-evening in most countries made it difficult to see the conference. The Pac-12 has only had teams in the college football playoffs twice — Oregon (2014 season) and Washington (2016).
USC President Carol L. Folt said she and university leaders considered the coast-to-coast travel that comes with competing in the Big Ten. Nebraska is now the westernmost school in the conference, and Lincoln is nearly 1,500 miles from Los Angeles. Rutgers, the easternmost Big Ten school, is nearly a 5 1/2 hour flight from Los Angeles.
“We are fortunate to be able to spend the next two years working with the conference on travel and scheduling plans,” Folt said.
The Big Ten, Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast conference last August formed an alliance following Oklahoma and Texas joining the SEC. The conferences said the 41 members would take a collaborative approach to charting the future of athletics. The three conferences have implemented schedules in select sports and have pooled resources to promote athlete welfare.
Less than a year later, the alliance’s future would look bleak with the Big Ten taking on two of the Pac-12’s biggest brands.
USC and UCLA will sever their longstanding conference relationship. USC joined California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington, and Washington State in the Pacific Coast Conference in 1922, followed by UCLA in 1928.
They went together in 1959 to the Athletic Association of Western Universities, which became the Pac-8 in 1968, the Pac-10 in 1978 and the Pac-12 in 2011.