The big business of college football is getting another shakeup, with USC and UCLA poised to join the Big Ten.
The move, which is not done but is reportedly very close, would be devastating to the Pac-12, which is already on shaky ground in the television revenue department and is now about to lose both its teams in the lucrative Los Angeles market. And it would be a major boost to the Big Ten, a traditionally Midwestern conference that has never had that kind of footprint on the West Coast.
It’s also a reminder of how much the college sports landscape is dominated by football, with all other sports mere afterthoughts when conference alignments are determined. USC and UCLA don’t fit with the Big Ten at all in the other college sports, but the opportunity to generate huge money on future TV contracts thanks to games like USC-Ohio State or USC-Michigan are too big for the conference to pass up.
The Big Ten and the SEC are already far ahead of the other conferences in TV revenue, and that gap will only increase with the twin moves of USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten along with Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC. The Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC are now the also-rans of the Power 5 conferences, to the point where we may soon have only a Power 2 conferences, with any remaining big-time football schools needing to either join the Big Ten or SEC, or get left behind.
With USC, UCLA, Texas and Oklahoma leaving their conferences, the coming years are seeing another major realignment in college football. And there will surely be more major moves coming.