University of Utah, Pac-12 shocked as USC, UCLA announce plans to leave for Big Ten

Photo Courtesy: Stadium.utah.edu

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, June 30, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — USC and UCLA shocked the college sports world Thursday by announcing their plans to leave the Pac-12 Conference and join Big Ten in 2024.

What the moves mean for the University of Utah and other Pac-12 members remain to be seen.

In a joint statement, University of Utah President Taylor Randall and Athletics Director Mark Harlan acknowledged the shocking nature of the planned departures while expressing confidence in the Pac-12 moving forward.

“This is a significant development that impacts each Pac-12 member institution and alters the landscape of intercollegiate athletics. At the University of Utah, we are very confident in the strength and trajectory of our institution and our athletics programs, coming off another elite year of academic performance, a Pac-12 championship season in football and our most successful year, collectively, across all of our sports since joining the conference in 2011.

“We have been in frequent communication with one another since this information came to light, and we will continue to stay in close communication with conference leadership and our fellow conference members as developments unfold,” the statement reads.

The Pac-12 expressed a similar sentiment in its official statement Thursday: “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 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.”

Pac-12 officials also hinted that the conference will be looking to add members in the coming years.

“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 statement concludes.

USC and UCLA announced their plans to join the Big Ten for all sports except beach volleyball, men’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s water polo after being officially accepted by the Big Ten on Thursday. The Trojans and Bruins will continue to compete in the Pac-12 until Aug. 2, 2024.

“Ultimately, the Big Ten is the best home for USC and Trojan athletics as we move into the new world of collegiate sports,” USC Athletics Director Mike Bohn said in a news release. “We are excited that our values align with the league’s member institutions. We also will benefit from the stability and strength of the conference; the athletic caliber of Big Ten institutions; the increased visibility, exposure, and resources the conference will bring our student-athletes and programs; and the ability to expand engagement with our passionate alumni nationwide.”

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Athletics Director Martin Jarmond announced the move in an online letter to Bruins fans, saying it was time to make a change.

“The Pac-12 has always shared our values and continues to innovate, working hard on behalf of its student-athletes and many fans. At the same time, each school faces its own unique challenges and circumstances, and we believe this is the best move for UCLA at this time. For us, this move offers greater certainty in rapidly changing times and ensures that we remain a leader in college athletics for generations to come,” the statement reads.

Moving to the Big Ten offers UCLA “exciting new competitive opportunities and a broader national media platform for our student-athletes to compete and showcase their talents,” according to the statement.

A move to the Big Ten also means the conference will stretch from coast to coast, which UCLA officials say will bring “better television time slots for our road games.”

“Because of our unique circumstances, we believe this is the right move for the UCLA Bruins and the right time,” the statement continues.

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