We had some big news break as USC and UCLA are planning to move to the Big Ten in 2024. This move has big implications for not only the universities involved, but for college athletics as well. We have already seen some of these big-time changes coming about with Texas and Oklahoma planning to move to the SEC. We are slowly watching college sports look more and more like professional leagues.
As conference changes continue to be made, we are looking at what appears to be mega-conferences form. Where the top programs from some of the underperforming conferences move to more successful conferences. I believe there are some competition reasons behind these moves, but also significant financial reasons. The NIL (Name Image & Likeness) movement has already reshaped recruiting tools for some of the bigger programs. This will only be furthered as these mega-conferences form creating even more opportunities for the big spenders.
We have not quite seen some of the lower-level teams in the big conferences leave to be more competitive in a small conference, but I am interested in seeing how well they compete as the already tough schedules get tougher. The lower conferences have also seen many changes over the last few years as some D-II schools have made the jump to the D-1 level.
I would predict we will eventually see a huge change come as some of the “Group of 5” conferences, such as the AAC and Sun Belt Conference, feel slighted when it comes to tournament time in many different sports. It will grow increasingly tough for their resumes to be strong enough to compete with the Power 5. We could potentially see a huge adjustment in college football to combat this issue: perhaps new formats, new ranking processes, or a complete overhaul of the league.
USC and UCLA will not be the last of their kind to make moves like this. I think it is just the next step in the new world of college athletics that is quickly approaching. NIL money and mega-conferences are appearing to be the catalyst of our new reality in college athletics.
By Nathan Massey