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Conference Realignment Part Infinity: USC and UCLA moving to the Big Ten

Rapid reactions as the news unfolded.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Utah at Ohio State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It is the thick of summer. The Fourth of July is around the corner, grilling season is in full-swing, swimming pools are busy, and conference realignment news is breaking!

It sounds like Mr. Warren has been busy blowing up The Alliance, and suddenly USC and UCLA are joining the Big Ten. There are obviously quite a bit of financial and reputational reasons for doing this, but also, it allows each of the three aforementioned parties to control their own destiny in this absolute arms-race of College Football (not really athletics though because obviously non-football things don’t matter).

Because the best content that the Off-Tackle Empire crew puts together is accomplished by doing awful stream-of-consciousness style nonsense, I posed a question to the room. This is sort of what ensued (editing done by me because I was the volunteer to put this together).

Rapid Reactions

[News breaks]


Jesse: I’m good with this. Road games in CA in Nov seem more fun than literally every other game in the footprint now.

WSR: Keep the current divisions and put UCLA in the West and USC in the East.

ATINAT: Holy shit I love the chaos. Illinois, Northwestern, USC, UCLA pod!

MNW: Maybe the only part of this I like is that that would be an extremely logical pod—keep the Quadrangle, rid me of ever having to see any team in Eastern Time ever again.

MC ClapYoHandz: I hate this so much

ATINAT: Maybe I’ll come back to Iowa City for one of those games. Also, what happened to the whole non aggression pact between us? Did we just invade Poland?

Green Akers: This is Sudetenland at worst, Rose Bowl has always been ancestral Big Ten territory.

Jesse: “they reached out to us!”

Misdreavus79: What did you think “The Alliance” meant?

The Alliance*

*Between USC, UCLA, and the Big Ten.

Kind of: I don’t like that this is where we’re at, but, well, it’s where we’re at. Poor Zuzu. Just as she’s finishing up at USC...

BoilerUp89: In the beginning, Purdue invited Northwestern, Illinois, Michigan, wisconsin, Minnesota, and Chicago into a sacred brotherhood. Everything since then has been a mistake. When this all blows up in our faces, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, wisconsin, and Minnesota can start a new conference. Maybe invite Iowa and Indiana and call it a day.

What do conferences look like now?

Green Akers: People speculating this eventually leads to two mega conferences of 20+ teams. God fucking dammit I am never going to get to all the Big Ten stadia if they just keep adding them.

Jesse: 16 team conferences makes more sense?

Beez: Just call them, I dunno, ACFB and NCFB.

Let 8 or so teams from each make the playoffs. Let players be paid contractually and shit.

Eventually there will be a B1G team near enough to NC to go see games and that will be glorious.

RU in VA: If you thought you didn’t care about rutgers before, wait until that 9 or 10 AM game against UCLA.


Jesse: I’m guessing MAYBE 2000 people show up for that game?

RU in VA: No idea... extreme coasts with neither “fanbase” giving anything close to a shit.

Kind of: It’s all TV rights and streaming anymore. Half of MLB is averaging <25,000 per night and the league is drowning in money.

Beez: you’re looking LIVE at the matchup of Rutgers and UCLA in Week 8 of B1G football, and you are one of the very few!

RU in VA: Who do they even look at for sponsors? Surfboards and pork roll sandwiches?

Jesse: I think UCLA - RU should be a protected crossover when this shit goes down. Mostly for the LOLs obviously.

GA: Could be useful to determine how many people die in front of their TVs on a typical college football Saturday

Beez: The big question is will B1G fans care less about the Rose Bowl if they get to see their team play there once every 4-15 years anyway.

Who do you add, who do you cut?

Jesse: [Tries to focus this into something resembling content preemptively stopping MNW from banning us all from slack] Anyhow, there are 69 Power 5 schools now that the Big 12 went out and got some people. It makes some sense that we would move to four 16 team conferences that allow for 8 team divisions. However, that means we’re axing 5. So friends, what 5 are we axing? And, let’s assume that SEC and Big Ten schools are exempt (including USC and UCLA).

Green Akers: Kansas State, Wake Forest, Oregon State, Baylor, Iowa State. Small town? GTFO.

Jesse: Iowa State is my number one. They don’t own a market, aren’t particularly profitable as a ratings giant, and uh... aren’t historically useful at any one sport except sorta basketball?

WSR: Yeah, Iowa State gets immediately yeeted.

GA: I don’t really care what it looks like. As Beez pointed out, this probably looks so much like the NFL that I finally lose interest in the sport. I look forward to full participation in Cider Mill SZN.

Jesse: KState is interesting because KU might drag them along. Same with Oregon State and Oregon.

GA: No man, you’re nuts if you think some dinky red state legislature is going to have any impact on this. Kansas doesn’t want to come without KState? Fuck you, your seat goes to someone else. Same for Oregon and Iowa.

Atinat: Re: 69 teams; nice

Jesse: Iowa would throw Iowa State under the bus, right? Like, for the fuck of it.

Beez: Duke, wake forest, Texas tech, Iowa state, and one of the Arizona’s. Sorry you’re gone.

MNW: Northwestern, looking around at Duke and Wake getting yeeted:

WSR: Or we could just push Iowa out to sea if that state insists that the B1G must take ISU.

Atinat: Oh absolutely fuck State. You could close that university and I would vote for it out of spite.

Beez: Ditching both iowas would get us 40% there... Duke absolutely coasts by while bringing nothing to football and being as small and shitty and awful as Wake.

(undergrad of course)

Sorry your parents were able to set you up for life! Your punishment is no P5 football. Also, Texas just has too many teams.

GA: Arizona’s a growth state so if this has anything to do with money they’re both in despite being utter clownshow schools.

Jesse: Oh yeah, keep Arizona for the TV sets.

Beez: I’m fine with that but some team that nobody watches or cares about but seems “safe” has to go.

WSR: Is it time to have a conversation about Indiana?

Beez: I was gonna say Illinois but that felt obvious. Oklahoma should only get one school. Although it feels a little bad to consider breaking up any two-team-state rivalry.

Jesse: Stillwater is also in the middle of nowhere with a weak following and a racist-ass coach. Let’s axe them. And, technically, OU bolting already broke up the rivalry so we’re just finishing the job.

Beez: It’ll probably severely diminish the rose bowl because 4 teams will play there every year, no? Like it’s not such a cool venue or travel destination if you play at UCLA and then also make the rose? Maybe I’m crazy

GA: I’m sticking with my list under the proviso Vandy and Northwestern are grandfathered in which is just so fucking on-brand.

Jesse: I think for me it’s ISU, KSU, OkSU, OrSU, and WSU. Real clean state sweep over here.

I feel like the ACC has schools we could offer up as sacrifice too but I’m not exactly clear on who that would be. Maybe Louisville? Syracuse?

Beez: No need to go beyond wake and Duke in the ACC in my opinion

Although it feels a little bad to consider breaking up any two-team-state rivalry

misdreavus79: I see two possibilities:

  • The recently promoted G5 schools get the boot, since they have no cache.
  • In this era of streaming, TV markets are less important than total fanbase size, so schools like UCF land somewhere by virtue of having a metric ton of alumni, whereas, Kansas State, for example, is going to want to start making alternate plans now.

Jesse: Right, thought about the G5 promos (Cincy, BYU, UCF, Houston) but like... they all have a lot of reason to be wanted from a TV contract perspective, right? Tons of alums or tons of TVs for all four.

misdreavus79: Exactly. And four 16-team conferences make more sense than two 20-team conferences, as has been rumored, at least for the time being.

Jesse: KSU and ISU are really fucked if this happens. You could almost argue that Oregon State pulls the Portland TV market (fair-ish) and is a reasonably sized university. Wazzu is fucked tho. I mean, do we talk about axing Cal?

Atinat: Maybe we should ax Stanford... Y’know, cause they’re trees.

Beez: I’m a bit surprised that Cal and UCLA don’t have some dumb “have to be int he same conference” legal requirement

And, is who should go a different result than who should be worried?

Jesse: Yeah, like... Vandy should def go. But they shouldn’t be worried.

Atinat: Probably, when you get down to legal agreements, there’s some schools that bring nothing but can’t be lost. Probably everyone currently in the big ten and sec is safe.

GA: It just depends on whether the university presidents retain final say or not. If they do, they’ll protect each other from being booted on the theory that if School X isn’t bringing enough to the table, what’s to prevent some McKinsey analyst from convincing the rest of the sport to boot my school too? But if the schools turn power over to some commissioner or body, they could easily decide it’s time to trim the fat.

Jesse: I can’t see the latter happening simply because lol schools are crazy about their vote.

GA: Within reason, though. Because again, if statehouse dorks in Des Moines or Topeka think they’ll be able to dictate “well University of North Bumfuq will not be joining any conference if it endangers the matchup with North Bumfuq State!!” they are going to be hilariously mistaken.

Do anything that results in State U getting left out of the new order and you’ll be burned in effigy.

WSR: Which, again, is why I’m so excited to watch Iowa because that state is run by some of the dumbest motherfuckers on earth.

Atinat: I never said I RUN the state—

Jesse: Hold on, to be fair, state legislatures are an absolute clusterfuck across the entire footprint right now.

WSR: Iowa is one of the few that has a B1G team shackled to a corpse. (We need more Ludendorff quotes around here.)

Kind of: Seems likelier each of Pac 12, Big 12, and ACC look to go to 16 teams (i.e., 5 conference/80 teams) than one of those conferences disappearing.

Pac 12 just grabs Boise St., Col. State, UNLV, Nevada, Fresno State and San Diego State

Big 12 gets Memphis, SMU, USF,, Tulane? Tulsa?

ACC adds UConn for hoops, stays at 14 for football unless/until Notre Dame is ready to make jump.

Jesse: There’s just no way they can negotiate legitimate deals to stay afloat in that scenario, though. They are diluting their conferences and don’t have anchors to major markets. Like, that new Pac 12 is basically the Mountain West with Oregon?

Kind of: True, but now way any of those conferences just bow out. Phil Knight will single-handedly keep Pac 12 afloat. It’s probably Big 12 that’s screwed.

Jesse: 100%. I think the plan would have to be the Pac 12 and Big 12 merging somehow. I mean, there’s no cap on members so... Why not be a 22 team mega-conference and dare someone to tell them no?

And if it ends up being a playoff of champions from each, then like... lolol now you have to fight off 21 teams and that’s your own damn fault

Kind of: “Merging”: whoever acts last gets shanked and dies. And, I get the major markets argument, but I also think it can be overrated. Pac 12 (- UCLA/USC) + much of Mt. West is a still a decent footprint. Not like ton of folks were watching UCLA (or USC) football last few years.

Talk more in the comments or whatever it is you do. Who would you add? Who would you cut?