A Spoiled Sports Fan: USC and UCLA should not have been welcomed into the Big Ten Conference


Credit: Theo Ghosh

In the latest installment of A Spoiled Sports Fan, Emily Roberge discusses the implications of the University of Southern California and the University of Los Angeles’s decision to leave the Pacific-12 Conference for the Big Ten Conference.

Emily Roberge

College football is back. The tailgates, rivalries and game days have commenced. But, some national conferences may be doomed.

On June 30, 2022 USC and UCLA announced that they will be leaving the Pacific-12 Conference and joining the Big Ten Conference on Aug. 2, 2024. This decision brings more money to both schools as they will have large television deals with networks like FOX, CBS and NBC.

Who wouldn’t want to join the Big Ten conference? Consisting of 16 schools and a recent seven billion dollar television deal, the Big Ten has it all: the academics, the revenue and the fan base. Each Big Ten school is projected to earn between 80 to 100 million dollars a year, while the Pac-12 made 19.8 million dollars during the 2020-2021 school year. But, this doesn’t mean that it is the right place for the USC Trojans or UCLA Bruins.

By leaving the Pac-12, both USC and UCLA are leaving their other Pacific Coast schools high and dry. They represent an intricate part of this conference, and without them, the conference might as well crumble to the ground. Former Utah quarterback Scott Mitchell said it best, “USC and UCLA just gave a big thumb-your-nose to a longstanding tradition in the Pac-12. They just killed it.”

Don’t get me wrong, college football is a huge business within the American economy, generating 4 billion dollars in revenue each year for Power 5 schools. It makes sense that universities would want their athletics to be earning them the most amount of money possible. However, there comes a point when division one powerhouse schools must prioritize their athletes’ needs and rich athletic traditions over a massive payout.

Not only does USC and UCLA’s move to the Big Ten have economic consequences for other Pac-12 schools, but it comes with sacrifices for student athletes. It’s real people that are being affected, not just pawns in a money-dominated game of chess.

Being a division one athlete for any sport is hard enough. While most college students can sleep in a little for their 9 a.m. class, student athletes are up at an early morning practice or lift. On top of practicing between one to two times a day, college athletes must manage keeping up with their course rigor. And, this isn’t even when they are on the road. When traveling to different states to play different universities, they miss significant time within the classroom- all the while experiencing the pressures of performing highly in their games.

Given the demanding nature of collegiate athletics, it isn’t surprising that there is a mental health crisis for many college athletes. Athletes have no time to take for themselves. In fact, a 2015 study conducted by nine of the 12 Pac-12 teams revealed that Pac-12 athletes spent roughly 50 hours per week on sports and “were often too exhausted to study effectively.” This issue will only increase as USC and UCLA athletes have to travel even further distances.

With the inclusion of USC and UCLA, the Big Ten Conference spans 2,800 miles from Los Angeles, California to New Brunswick, New Jersey. The closest other Big Ten schools to the two Los Angeles schools is Nebraska, over 1,500 miles away. It is neither logical nor sustainable for colleges to expect their athletes to succeed in their schoolwork when they have a non-stop, cross-country traveling schedule.

Not only are the traveling distances irrational, but the changing of conferences weakens the rich history of college sports. Rivalries are what bring college sports fans back to the stands each year. Once USC and UCLA are out of the Pac-12 picture, who will fill the void? That sense of excitement of defeating a local rival will be gone.

I don’t know where college football is going next. Once 2024 comes, the game will never really be the same. And that’s a shame.