Changing the game: the future of college sports

Kaylee Donnelly, Senior Writer

On June 30 of this year, the University of South California (USC) and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) left the PAC-12 conference for the Big 10.

The Big 10, typically a midwestern conference, is home to schools like Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. This decision was made following the University of Texas and University of Oklahoma leaving the Big 12 for the SEC. These two conferences, the Big 10 and SEC, with arguably the biggest names in college football, have the potential to redefine the landscape of college sports.

This move may seem quite surprising at first, given the two schools are based in Los Angeles while the Big 10 is based mostly in the Midwest. From a fans perspective, this move is a bit of a disappointment. Midwestern fans who were able to view their favorite teams at reasonable hours may now be stuck with games at 10 o’clock at night.

It might not be unreasonable to assume that not all fans will be willing to watch the entirety of the game, as many of these people need to consider the workday. 

From a financial perspective, however, the move is almost obvious. The money and viewership both USC and UCLA will make off this move is significant. Football is financially the most important sport for schools, and introducing their teams into this conference will not only increase their competition in gameplay, but clock them into a larger fanbase than before. Big 10 schools, in addition, sponsor more sports than anyone else. 

But how will this consolidation affect college sports? It’s arguable that most college football talent now resides in the Big 10 and SEC, and a significant part of college athletics revenue comes from their television viewership. By consolidating the best teams into the same conferences, these schools will not only be increasing their views, but extraordinarily increasing the amount of money flowing into their athletic programs.

This money, in turn, can be used for improving facilities, coaching, technology, and other aspects of athletics that will only continue to improve these college programs. Consolidation, in simple terms, only increases the gap between the best and everyone else. 

At this point, it would be near impossible for other schools to catch up. Being at a financial disadvantage in collegiate athletics is more significant than it appears. Big 10 and SEC schools will have better facilities, better housing, better food and better technology. They can have more coaches, more trainers, better healthcare and high quality equipment. In addition, these schools, unlike schools with smaller budgets, are able to house, feed and train their athletes all year round. And this does not just include football. Most sports, including women’s sports through Title IX, will also see a majority of the financial improvements through the consolidation of the SEC and Big 10 that other conferences cannot keep up with. This type of money has the potential to outrun the NCAA itself.

The only divide that really remains is between the conferences, and between networks. The Big 10, after several decades on ESPN along with the SEC, will now be transferred to CBS and Fox Sports in 2023. The SEC renewed their deal with ESPN in 2024 for over $300 million dollars, according to Sports Illustrated, while the Big 10’s deal with CBS and Fox Sports was signed for about $50 million more. 

In the end, divided between networks or not, the consolidation of the Big 10 and SEC conferences has the potential to change the landscape of college sports for good. The type of money that is being invested into these two conferences has the potential to turn these college athletics truly into a league of their own. 

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