The Big Ten conference will soon look a whole lot different.
“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,” USC President Carol Folt said in a statement. “We are delighted to begin this new chapter in 2024.”
“As the oldest NCAA Division I athletic conference in the United States and with a footprint that will now extend from the Pacific to the Atlantic, Big Ten membership offers Bruins exciting new competitive opportunities and a broader national media platform for our student-athletes to compete and showcase their talents,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Athletic Director Martin Jarmond wrote in a statement. “Specifically, this move will enhance Name, Image and Likeness opportunities through greater exposure for our student-athletes and offer new partnerships with entities across the country.
The official announcement comes after Pac-12 reporter Jon Wilner initially reported the two teams were planning to switch conferences, which sent shockwaves across social media.
According to The Athletic‘s Nicole Auerbach, Big Ten presidents and athletic directors met Wednesday night to discuss the potential move. Additionally, Bruce Feldman reported that UCLA and USC reached out to the Big Ten about switching conferences.
The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously to accept both schools as full members beginning Aug. 2, 2024, which allows both schools to remain in the Pac-12 for the duration of that conference’s current media rights agreement.
“This is a thrilling evening for the Big Ten Conference,” Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi said. “We welcome USC and UCLA with open arms as like-minded institutions that are as committed to high GPAs and graduation rates as they are to on-field excellence. It was an easy decision that will build upon our conference’s rich heritage.”
“Penn State University is a proud member of the Big Ten Conference, and we welcome the addition of two world-class universities to our family,” said Penn State Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Patrick Kraft, whose tenure officially begins on Friday. “USC and UCLA are both synonymous with academic and athletics success and will be tremendous additions to our conference.”
Last August, the Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 agreed to form an alliance that would impact future scheduling. However, ESPN’s Pete Thamel is now reporting that the alliance is all but over after the Big Ten took two of the Pac-12’s teams.
This marks the second consecutive summer that realignment has sparked a massive change in the college sports landscape. Last summer, the SEC announced that Texas and Oklahoma will join its conference beginning in 2025.
More groundbreaking realignment could be on the horizon in the future. According to Auerbach, she spoke with someone who believes the Big Ten and SEC will turn into two megaconferences with over 20 members apiece.
When USC and UCLA officially enter the Big Ten, their football teams will do so with just 16 combined all-time games against Penn State. The Nittany Lions own a 4-6 and 2-4 record against USC and UCLA, respectively.
The last time Penn State played either team was in the 2017 Rose Bowl when it lost 52-49 to USC. The Nittany Lions’ most recent matchup against UCLA was a 21-6 win in 1968.
“This is another big step in the ever-changing college football landscape and we embrace the change,” Penn State football coach James Franklin said. “USC and UCLA are two institutions with a long-standing tradition of academic and athletic success. They will only strengthen our already very strong Big Ten Conference.”
Penn State men’s basketball has a 3-0 combined record against the two schools, including two NCAA Tournament victories, though only one of those games have happened this century. The Nittany Lions pulled off a memorable 74-69 upset of the No. 4 seed Bruins in the 1991 NCAA Tournament and defeated the Trojans in the third place game of the 1954 tournament, the only time Penn State made the Final Four. Penn State and USC last met in 2014, when the Nittany Lions won 63-61 in the Charleston Clasic.
“The Big Ten has long been home to universities that compete at the highest level in both athletics and academics,” Penn State men’s basketball Micah Shrewberry said. “UCLA and USC are not only two institutions whose values align with Big Ten, but whose basketball traditions will be great additions to bolster the Big Ten as the nation’s premiere basketball conference.”
The Big Ten hasn’t had a team join its conference since 2014 when Rutgers left the ACC to become the 14th team in the Big Ten. Now, in just two years, UCLA and USC will become the conference’s 15th and 16th teams.
StateCollege.com editor Geoff Rushton contributed to this report.