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USC, UCLA leaving Pac-12 to join Big Ten in 2024

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USC and UCLA are leaving the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten beginning in 2024, the schools announced on Thursday.

"The Big Ten conference council of presidents and chancellors voted unanimously today to admit the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California to the Big Ten conference effective Aug. 2, 2024," the Big Ten's statement reads. "Competition will begin for all conference sports in the 2024-25 academic year."

"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 L. Folt wrote in a statement.

"For us, this move offers greater certainty in rapidly changing times and ensures that we remain a leader in college athletics for generations to come," UCLA chancellor Gene D. Block wrote.

The Trojans and Bruins have been exploring the move for the past few months, sources told ESPN's Pete Thamel and Heather Dinich. The financial disparity between the Big Ten's revenue and the projected Pac-12 revenue was apparently the biggest factor in the decision. However, several others reportedly played a role, including competitiveness, brand, and the overall landscape of college sports, per Thamel and Dinich.

The current Pac-12 television contract is set to expire after the 2023 football season, which means USC and UCLA can leave the conference ahead of the 2024 campaign without suffering any financial penalty, according to Thamel and Dinich.

The two Pac-12 powerhouses could top $100 million annually in media rights in the Big Ten, a source told Jon Wilner of the Mercury News.

"While we are extremely surprised and disappointed by the news coming out of UCLA and USC today, we have a long, storied history in athletics, academics, and leadership in supporting student-athletes that we're confident will continue to grow and thrive in the future," the Pac-12 said in a statement.

The news comes a year after Texas and Oklahoma agreed to leave the Big 12 to join the SEC. The move sparked a big realignment among other conferences. The Big 12 is welcoming four new teams in 2023 as a result - BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF.

In August, the Big Ten, Pac-12, and ACC announced an alliance that planned to address several topics in college sports, including the future structure of the NCAA.

With USC and UCLA, the Big Ten would field a total of 16 teams, the same as the SEC once Texas and Oklahoma officially join the mix ahead of the 2025 season. The Pac-12's current membership has been together since 2011.

The Big Ten is currently in negotiations over its next media rights deal, according to The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach. The conference's existing deals with ESPN and Fox run through 2022-23.

USC's football team originally stole the headlines this offseason after hiring head coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma.

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