College football realignment is in the middle of another seismic shift after USC and UCLA announced they will join the Big Ten in 2024.
That followed another bombshell of Texas and Oklahoma bolting the Big 12 for the SEC, and in turn the Big 12 adding four new members of its own.
There’s no denying the move of historic football programs like USC and UCLA moving to a new conference will forever change the dynamics nationally — for the Big Ten, for the Pac-12, for the Rose Bowl, and the College Football Playoff.
Who made out in the latest expansion, and who’s getting left behind?
Winner: Big Ten
Don’t debate here. On the field, the Big Ten remains the solid No. 2 conference in college football behind the always-dominant SEC. But on the financial side, the B1G leads the way in terms of revenue, ahead of its Southern rival.
By making this move, the Big Ten scores just about a perfect response to the SEC’s expansion by dipping into the huge Los Angeles media market and extending its influence from coast to coast with an expected jump in its revenue pool.
Losers: Rose Bowl
The premier date and most recognizable tradition in college football is now facing a very uncertain future. Prior to now, USC and UCLA combined for 30 wins in the Granddaddy of ‘Em All, and now all that success transfers to the Big Ten side.
What will become of the Rose Bowl now? The game does hold a ton of influence over how the postseason works, keeping its New Year’s Day kickoff date in partnership with the Tournament of Roses even in the modern era.
For generations, a Rose Bowl featuring USC and Ohio State or USC and Michigan have decorated the postseason calendar. Now those are mere conference games, and there’s no plan in place to maintain the character of the Rose Bowl as we know it. Especially in an era where the College Football Playoff dominates the scene.
Winner: USC and UCLA
There’s no denying that both USC football and UCLA basketball, the two premier programs in this move, have suffered in recent years.
By making this move, both now have a rare opportunity to hit the reset button. Playing the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Nebraska in football will give the Trojans more exposure than they would have playing a Pac-12 schedule. Same for the Bruins on the hardwood playing in a superior league.
The switch can only help in terms of reaching larger audiences, getting more publicity, playing more quality schedules (more important now than ever before), and ultimately on the recruiting trail.
There’s no way around it: the unique regional and local character of college football is getting swept away in a tidal wave of reorganization driven by profit.
The organic nature of the game that grew out of universities over 150 years and kept its quirky traditions and identity intact for so long has turned into a national corporate enterprise and is consolidating along those lines. You can’t help but feel that, even as the sport makes gains, something is also being lost.
But as long as there’s good football to watch, and there certainly will be, most fans will go along with the changes.
They’ll follow their schools, and hate their rivals. Saturdays will find stadiums full of passionate fans, marching bands, tailgates, and cheerleaders. The lyrics may change, but the song remains the same. College football isn’t going anywhere.
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