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USC, UCLA reportedly ‘planning to leave’ Pac-12 for the Big Ten

Per Jon Wilner of The Mercury News, the Trojans and Bruins could join the Big Ten as early as 2024

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In this Dec. 12, 2020, file photo, UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) is threatened by Southern California linebacker Drake Jackson (99). According to Jon Wilner of The Mercury News, both USC and UCLA are looking to exit the Pac-12 for the Big Ten.

Ashley Landis, Associated Press

Outside of exactly when Texas and Oklahoma were going to officially leave the Big 12 for the SEC, conference realignment seemed to have settled down of late after what had been a wild fall.

“Seemed” being the operative word.

On Thursday, Pac-12 insider Jon Wilner of The Mercury News, reported that the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins are “planning to leave (the Pac-12) for the Big Ten.”

According to Wilner, the Trojans and Bruins could join the Big Ten as early as 2024, though nothing has been finalized.

Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman later substantiated Wilner’s report, noting that “there is a lot of truth to (Wilner’s) report about USC and UCLA in discussions to leave for the Big Ten.”

According to Feldman, USC and UCLA have reached out to the Big Ten, but “certain legal parameters and bylaws need to be followed for obviously legal reasons.”

ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported something along the same lines, confirming that USC and UCLA are “exploring a move to the Big Ten.”

Per Thamel, “the schools have been researching the move for the past few months,” with the financial disparity between the two conferences proving a major motivating factor in USC and UCLA’s interest in leaving the Pac-12.

Thamel added that the biggest obstacle to any move would be UCLA “leaving behind Cal, because it meant breaking away from the UC system.”

USC and UCLA have been affiliated with the Pac-12 (or its predecessor conferences) since the 1920s. USC joined the Pacific Coast Conference in 1922, while UCLA was added in 1928.

When the PCC dissolved, both schools were also a part of the Athletic Association of Western Universities, which eventually became the Pacific-8 Conference, then the Pac-10 and finally the Pac-12.

A week ago, in an interview with The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch, ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro noted that ESPN and the Big Ten have been involved in ongoing negotiations regarding media rights.

Pitaro noted the conference’s strong position, saying “We have a great relationship with the Big Ten. They are certainly an ascending conference right now and I’m not talking about just football. I have a very good relationship with Kevin (Warren), their commissioner.

“They have been a big part of ESPN for a long time now. It is no secret here... we are in discussions. Just like every other property, we enter these discussions understanding we can’t get everything and we are going to proceed with discipline and thoughtfulness.

“We are very much in it right now. But we love the Big Ten. I think everyone loves the Big Ten. They are in a very good position right now.”

If USC and UCLA do indeed leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten, the latter conference’s negotiating position would only strengthen.

Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger noted that a USC and UCLA move to the Big Ten, coupled with Texas and Oklahoma’s move to the SEC, could be the beginning of a new era of college football, with two giant 30-35 team conferences a real possibility.

“Conferences outside the (Big Ten) and SEC with member teams that are attractive — hi(gh) rev(enue), athletic success, big markets — should be worried those teams will leave for the new Power 2,” Dellenger wrote on Twitter.

Dellenger went on to add that “there has been a sense for more than a year now that the SEC and Big Ten would each grow in size, evolving into two giants of the sport... operating in a semi-professional model of college football.”