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23 thoughts on USC and UCLA  to the Big Ten

Attempting to think our way through a California earthquake that leaves the Pac-12 in ruins and changes just about everything for just about everyone.

In case you hadn't heard, USC and UCLA could be on their way to the Big Ten. The deal is not done at this time, but it's unlikely we'd know about it if both sides of the table didn't expect it to get done.

My head is spinning as I sit here trying to process this move. Rather than sit here and let my brain get dizzy, I figured I'd spit out everything my brain is thinking as it tries to understand this earth-shattering move.

1. Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC felt like the biggest possible move, but this feels bigger. While it's true that USC and UCLA to the Big Ten likely doesn't happen if Texas and OU hadn't gone first, but this just hits different. It feels like the death of the idea of a conference as we originally understood it: a collection of like-minded schools that are (more or less) geographic neighbors. The SEC adding Texas and OU may have felt like knocking down the Berlin Wall; the Big Ten adding USC and UCLA feels like the USA and the USSR uniting to fight the Martians.

2. This move has an whiff of finality to it, but it also feels like just the beginning. If USC and UCLA can join the Big Ten, what's to stop them of adding Miami, North Carolina, Clemson and Notre Dame? Would it really surprise anyone if the SEC and Big Ten ended up at 20 schools apiece when the last bomb has hit?

3. We can all mock the death of The Alliance -- I did, back in February -- but it's still surprising the Big Ten did this to the Pac-12. Those conferences have always been allies, in the truest sense of the word. Their shared stewardship of the Rose Bowl has kept that game in an exalted place above the rest of the college football postseason... to the detriment of the remainder of the sport. The Big Ten and the Pac-12 are the reason why we can't have CFP semifinal games on New Year's Day every year. They're (largely) the reason why we don't have a 12-team Playoff yet. They had a non-conference scheduling agreement at one time (that never came to fruition, but still). There was talk of the two conferences pairing their upcoming media rights contracts and including the Rose Bowl rights in them. 

Instead, the Big Ten decided to take the Pac-12's best assets for itself and leave the Pac-12 to die.

4. Make no mistake, this is a death sentence for the Pac-12. Not in the sense that the conference will wither and die and that the remaining schools will drop football without USC and UCLA, but the Pac-12 doesn't have a place at the big-boy table without the LA schools and there's no move the Pac-12 can possibly make that will even approach what they're set to lose.

5. You've got to assume Washington, Oregon, Stanford and Cal are on the horn with their SoCal colleagues asking if they can make room on their Gulfstream for them.

6. If the Big Ten and the LA schools wanted Washington, Oregon, Stanford and Cal, they likely would've included them in the first place.

7. When it becomes official, the Big Ten will become the first "national" conference. A conference whose geographic and emotional center used to be Bloomington, Indiana will soon stretch from the Jersey Shore to Manhattan Beach. Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State already have brands that reach from coast to coast and border to border, and the other schools have plenty of graduates spread across the country, too. That's why this move resonates at a level Texas/OU-to-the-SEC doesn't. That move was about locking down the entire Southern portion of the United States, this is about having a presence in all 50 states.

8. All that said, the Big Ten still has to make this work. Are they really going to send Iowa's basketball teams to play a Tuesday night game in LA? Really? Is UCLA going to send its championship-caliber softball and soccer teams to freeze in the Midwest for weeks on end? Really?

9. What gives you a bigger case of vertigo: the idea of a USC-Rutgers conference game, or a UCLA-Stanford Rose Bowl?

10. Oklahoma president Joseph Harroz said last summer that what ultimately pushed his school and their burnt orange frenemy to the SEC was the fact that the Big 12 had the last at-bat among all conferences and sports leagues in the upcoming round of media rights deals. “It became clear that the Big 12 was the last in line for meeting and negotiations — not just as between among all of the Power 5 conferences, the autonomous five, but among all of those with the major broadcasters in live sports — the NFL, the NHL, all those. And the last in line has consequences," he said.

I obviously haven't spoken to USC president Carol Folt or UCLA president Michael Drake, but I bet it was the same logic for their schools. The Big Ten is first to the plate, and the LA schools feared a scenario where they show up to the bank to find the bank's empty. Painful as it was and uncomfortable as it will be, they chose to hop on the boat rather than watch it sail away and leave them marooned. 

11. This underscores how fatally painful this move is for the Pac-12. That conference was already faced with the prospect of trying to carve out enough dollars and eyeballs after the Big Ten and SEC have already cleaned ESPN and Fox out, and now they've got to show up to the negotiating table without their two best assets and without a presence in the LA market. Devastating doesn't even begin to describe it.

12. The Big Ten's next TV contract is going to be big, in more ways than one. The deal(s) were already set to create a $1 billion windfall for the league each year, before adding the two biggest brands west of Austin, Texas. But who cares about that; fans don't get dividend checks.

It's going to be in that Big Ten football is going to be everywhere. Imagine a B1G Big Noon game on Fox, a national CBS game with all the bells and whistles that network currently uses on the SEC, another Fox game in primetime, and then B1G After Dark on ESPN featuring whichever LA team is home that week. Big Ten football will be in a featured slot from noon Eastern to 10 p.m. Pacific.

13. That said, the LA schools better get used to playing at 9 a.m. body clock time, and Big Ten schools should familiarize themselves with kicking off at 10 p.m. local time.

14. This point by Stewart Mandel shouldn't be ignored.

15. It's ironic that this move was inspired by Texas and OU, but will be likely be complete before theirs. The reporting indicates USC and UCLA will be B1G members by 2024, while all parties continue to indicate the Longhorns and Sooners won't join the SEC until 2025.

16. The ACC's Grant of Rights, which runs until 2036, continues to be its saving grace and its Achilles heel. The conference had to agree to the GoR for that long in order to get ESPN to agree to fund and air the ACC Network, which it needed in order to avoid getting left behind by the Big Ten and SEC. But because its rights don't expire for another decade and a half, the ACC is guaranteed to get passed by the Big Ten and the SEC.

By getting each school to pledge its media rights to the conference through 2036, the ACC made itself impossible to leave. Simply by standing still, the ACC has become the clear-cut No. 3 conference: miles ahead of the Big 12 and Pac-12, miles behind the SEC and Big Ten.

17. Still, you'd better believe they're scrambling the jets at ACC HQ today. North Carolina, Clemson, Miami, Florida State, Duke and Notre Dame (not necessarily in that order) are now the biggest brands not in the Power 2, which makes them vulnerable targets and/or attractive options, depending on where you sit. How ironclad is that ironclad contract?

18. What do you think they're thinking at BYU today? The Cougars were stoked for life in the Big 12 until around 11:30 local time, when Jon Wilner's tweet went live. BYU had always been persona non grata to the Pac-12 due to ideological reasons, but can that league be so picky now without the LA schools? No one other school west of the Rockies even approaches BYU's brand power and football prowess. If presented an opportunity to play in the same conference as Utah again and not travel to Morgantown and Cincinnati on the regular, what do you think the Cougars choose?

19. As always, the biggest realignment winners remain the Purdues and the Mississippi States of the world: the schools that were grandfathered into the Power 2 long, long before there was a Power 2.

20. What do you do if you're Oregon State, Washington State, et al? Try to unite with the Big 12? Try to peel off BYU, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor? Or are you hoping from a call from them? 

21. I still can't get over how weird this all is.

22. I realize everyone lionizes the conference alignment of their youth but, if it was up to me, every school would go back to where they were in 2009-ish. I miss the original Big 12. I yearn for a strong Big East. I believe the Mountain West could have grown into a power league with TCU, BYU, Utah, Boise State and San Diego State. I want USC and Arizona in the same conference, not USC and Maryland. 

23. Who else is counting the days until the first UCLA-Indiana Big Ten game?