USC and UCLA will move to the Big Ten starting in 2024, so what does that mean for Illinois Fighting Illini?
Let me start by saying that I didn’t see it coming. On Thursday night, Big Ten and PAC-12 presidents and athletic directors gathered to confirm the transition of two of the most historic athletic programs to date: USC and UCLA. The two additions coming in 2024 bring the Big Ten Conference to 16 schools, and some compelling matchups to expect in the near future.
As an Illini alumnus, I grew up watching the Big Ten religiously and saw classic games between Michigan State vs. Michigan, Ohio State vs. Michigan, Northwestern vs. Iowa, and Penn State vs. Ohio State. I always thought of the Big Ten as the blueblood college football conference in the Midwest, where the vast majority of the weekend’s best games would occur between a combination of those schools, but now there’s a twist.
Sources: USC and UCLA have been notified that their bids to join the Big Ten have been accepted. Schools will start playing in 2024.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) June 30, 2022
Expect Illinois to play USC and UCLA in cold and hot weather. Not to mention the time difference between opposite ends of the country, which could lead to some brutal travel arrangements ahead.
However, I think it is worth looking at the benefits. You’ll have fans who want to travel in warm weather to see their alma-mater perform. Depending on the stakes or importance of the game, the odds will only increase. Not to mention the fact that the Big Ten’s television deal is worth $1 billion, according to CBS Sports. And with Illinois’ attempt to overturn the football program, as well as the almost immediate turnaround of the basketball program, the pros outweigh the cons.
UCLA vs Illinois for a November berth? Sign me up. A conference match to determine a champion in March? Bring it on.
What was Illinois Fighting Illini’s reaction to the news?
Illinois responded positively to the news and released a joint statement on behalf of Chancellor Robert Jones and athletic director Josh Whitman. That was the norm for most of the conference, as 2024 is probably the most anticipated year in college athletics.
“As a founding member of the Big Ten Conference, the University of Illinois is thrilled to welcome the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California as a newest member of the Big Ten,” says the press release.
UCLA and USC are preeminent academic institutions with strong and successful athletic traditions. They stand as two of the most recognizable and celebrated brands in higher education and intercollegiate athletics, and their institutional values and forward-looking vision align with those of our existing members. We are delighted to have them as peers, colleagues and competitors.
College athletics is in a time of intense disruption, with change rapidly happening around us. For the Big Ten to maintain our position as one of the preeminent conferences in the nation, we must continue to be strategic in our thinking, bold in our decisions and precise in our execution. Today’s news demonstrates all of these qualities and represents a monumental moment in the history of the Big Ten Conference. We thank Commissioner Kevin Warren and Big Ten staff for their leadership.
The University of Illinois is proud to be affiliated with the new Big Ten Conference, and we look forward to lively and intense competition on the playing fields and productive and successful collaboration outside of them.
Although the partnership is two years away, it will be interesting to see if any new developments arise in the days, weeks, months and years to come.