The NCAA has schools split up into conferences that determine standings, bracket position, and whole lot of cash. Historically, conferences have made up their membership based on regional location. However, in the last decade or so, we've seen conferences shifting and deals being made to support performance and financial sustainability. USC and UCLA have been members of the PAC 12 conference since the 1920's. They've been a staple of the conference that also includes Western-based universities like Stanford, Arizona State, and the University of Utah. In 2024, USC and UCLA will leaving the PAC 12 and joining the BIG 10, which is made up of mostly mid-Western states with hard-hitting reputations in the world of college sports. We're talking about Michigan, Nebraska, and Ohio State. The BIG 10 is currently comprised of 14 teams, so these two California teams will make the BIG 10, in reality, the BIG 16. The consequences for the PAC 12 could be detrimental, while the acquisition for the BIG 10 could be considered somewhat of an NCAA monopoly.
Historically, three states produce the most professional football players that go on to play in the NFL: Florida, Texas, and California. There are also more NBA players from California than any other state. Naturally, anyone looking for the next big football or basketball star would start the search in California. By USC leaving the PAC 12 and going to the BIG 10, they take with them a very large football fan base into the mid-west. The same is true for the UCLA basketball program, being consistently one of the top five teams in NCAA basketball year after year. With them moving to the BIG 10, USC and UCLA are providing the conference with an astronomical amount of fans committed to watching their favorite teams during the season. More viewers means higher ratings, and higher ratings means more money for anyone wanting a commercial spot on TV or advertisement space in the programs. More viewers also means higher ticket and merchandise prices along with the fans willing to pay them. This also means that the BIG 10 has a funnel into some of the top athletes having their eye on the NFL and NBA, boosting the BIG 10's reputation for producing professional athletes. The NCAA is a big business and the BIG 10 is playing the money game.
Damage to the Pac 12
The most damage from this new shift in conference membership will be done in the PAC 12. The PAC 12 conference has some great university talent, but with them being in smaller populated states and smaller viewing markets, the impact of this move will take away a large chunk of the PAC 12's fan base, viewing numbers, and ultimately, it's ratings. The financial consequences of losing USC and UCLA to another conference will force the PAC 12 to be creative in it's recruiting strategies, marketing techniques, and how they keep their teams in the top of the ranks. They'll need to adapt and adjust quickly to ensure quality coaching, athlete commitment, and fan commitment can not only stay consistent, but simply just keep up with what the BIG 10 will be taking from them.
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