Are you someone who still struggles to accept "Maryland and Rutgers, Big Ten opponents" when you look at the schedule? Well, brace yourselves, because I've got some bad news for you. Dormant since 2014, when the Big Ten added
Rutgers and Maryland the New York and Washington, D.C. media markets to the league, the Big Ten is, according to several reports, seeking to expand its membership once again. And if the additions of Rutgers and Maryland didn't completely shatter the geographic footprint of the league, the new additions certainly will.
Source: USC and UCLA are planning to leave for the Big Ten as early as 2024. Move *has not been finalized* at the highest levels of power.— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) June 30, 2022
That's right: BIG TEN EXPANSIONPALOOZA IS BACK!!!
Sources tell @latimes that USC was the impetus behind this move to the Big Ten.— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) June 30, 2022
The move is believed to include all sports except for beach volleyball, sources say.
BRING BEACH VOLLEYBALL TO THE CORALVILLE RES, U COWARDS.
While details on all kinds of things are still unclear, uh, the move is official, with UCLA and USC announcing it tonight.
OFFICIAL: USC will join the Big Ten Conference in 2024.— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) June 30, 2022
According to ESPN's Adam Rittenberg, USC and UCLA approached the Big Ten about the move, rather than the league intiating contact.
Sources: Big Ten presidents/chancellors are meeting at 6 ET, where they are expected to vote and approve USC and UCLA as new members. Am told the interest came from the USC and UCLA side. Big Ten wasn't seeking new members, but hard to say no.— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) June 30, 2022
That may simply be the official cover story to make the Big Ten look better -- "how could we possibly resist a massive opportunity like this???" It's certainly highly convenenient timing for news of a potential blockbuster expansion move like this to be happening right as the conference is negotiating a new media rights deal with the likes of FOX, ESPN, CBS, and more.
Sixteen Ten may not be done in the expansion arms race, either.
Source: Don't assume the Big Ten is done.— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) June 30, 2022
Just got off the phone with someone who believes this eventually leads to two megaconferences the Big Ten and SEC with 20 or more members apiece.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) June 30, 2022
To get to 20 (!) or more (!!) teams, the Big Ten would almost certainly need to poach additional members from the Pac-12 (though the ACC or Big 12 could be additional targets as well), but the biggest target on the Big Ten's shopping list figures to be a familiar and, unlike USC and UCLA, geographically logical, addition.
Source on Notre Dame: "It's really unsustainable to be an independent now."— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) June 30, 2022
Obviously a Big Ten "conference" that contains 20 or more teams and stretches from coast to coast would barely resemble the Big Ten Conference that most of us have grown up following. The addition of Penn State almost 30 years ago cracked the door open to the East Coast; the further additions of Rutgers and Maryland leveled that door. Geographic alignment stopped being a primary consideration for conferences long ago, for better or worse.
From a logistical standpoint, it's anyone's guess how a super-sized Big Ten might function, though it seems likely to resemble a bizarro version of a professional sports league like MLB or the NBA or the NFL, where you have an assembly of teams from across the nation organized under a common banner. Perhaps divisions don't die but instead multiply, going from two 7-team constructs into, say, four 5-team constructs, with the remainder of the schedule involving a rotation of teams from the other mini-divisions. Of course, that's just football; lord knows how basketball or the Olympic sports might function in this wild new world.
For better or worse, change is coming to the Big Ten.