ARIZONA STATE FOOTBALL

Arizona ‘extremely disappointed’ in USC, UCLA leaving Pac-12 for Big Ten

Jul 1, 2022, 10:40 AM | Updated: 11:27 am
Basketballs are rolled off the court during the NCAAB game at McKale Center on January 03, 2022 in ...
Basketballs are rolled off the court during the NCAAB game at McKale Center on January 03, 2022 in Tucson, Arizona. The Arizona Wildcats won 95-79 against the Washington Huskies. (Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)

The Arizona Wildcats broke their silence Friday regarding USC’s and UCLA’s plans to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten as early as 2024.

“As a longtime member of the Pac-12 Conference, we are extremely disappointed in yesterday’s announcement of the future departure of two peer universities,” university president Dr. Robert Robbins and director of athletics David Heeke said in a press release. “The proud traditions and culture of the Pac-12 and its persistent commitment to student-athlete success have always made it a national leader.

“The University of Arizona will continue in its commitment to serving its student-athletes and ensuring we continue to compete at the highest levels of Division I athletics in all women’s and men’s sports. We will continue to engage and communicate with our peers around the conference to ensure the University of Arizona and its student-athletes, campus community, loyal fans, alumni, and supporters are a priority in all decision making.”

The schools’ move to the Big Ten will happen after the Pac-12’s current media rights contracts with Fox and ESPN expire in 2024. The deal will make the Big Ten the first conference to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported Friday that Pac-12 presidents and athletic directors were frustrated and surprised during a Thursday night call and that the conference is “prioritizing who is in and can be counted on to recalibrate the league, which is on the cusp of a TV negotiation.”

In a Friday statement, the conference said the Pac-12 board of directors met earlier in the morning and “authorized the conference to explore all expansion options.”

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said USC and UCLA, both members of the Pac-12 and its previous iterations for nearly a century, submitted applications for membership and the league’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted unanimously to add the Los Angeles schools.

The announcement, which caught the Pac-12 off-guard, came almost a year after Oklahoma and Texas formally accepted invitations to join the Southeastern Conference in July 2025.

“While we are extremely surprised and disappointed by the news coming out of UCLA and USC today, we have a long and storied history in athletics, academics and leadership in supporting student-athletes that we’re confident will continue to thrive and grow into the future,” the Pac-12 said in a statement Thursday. “The Pac-12 is home to many of the world’s best universities, athletic programs and alumni, representing one of the most dynamic regions in the United States.

“We’ve long been known as the Conference of Champions, and we’re unwavering in our commitment to extend that title. We will continue to develop new and innovative programs that directly benefit our member institutions, and we look forward to partnering with current and potential members to pioneer the future of college athletics together.”

The re-configuration in college sports could be far from over, too, with The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach reporting Thursday that the USC-UCLA move could eventually lead to two megaconferences between the Big Ten and SEC that would include 20 or more members apiece.

USC and UCLA stand to significantly increase their revenues. The Pac-12 distributed only $19.8 million per school in fiscal year 2021, by far the least among Power 5 conferences. The Big Ten’s per-school distribution was $46.1 million, second only to the SEC’s $54.6 million.

Losing flagship schools like USC and UCLA is a major blow to the Pac-12, which has had a long and amicable relationship with the Big Ten best exemplified by its Rose Bowl partnership.

The Pac-12’s next move is unknown, but adding schools to replace USC and UCLA is a possibility.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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