There are winners and losers in every business deal, and that’s what the reshuffle of college sports is: big business.
In this case, major college football programs that are more appealing to television and streaming entities leave behind the schools they’ve been tuned with for decades — in some cases, more than a century.
Southern California and UCLA have two years left in the Pac-12 before joining the Big Ten. This West Coast breakout is similar to the Texas two-step of a year ago, when Texas and Oklahoma said adios to the Big 12 and fled the SEC.
Geography, rivalry and purpose are no longer binding agents. are media contracts. Flying a volleyball team from California to Pennsylvania for a regular season game? That’s the price you have to pay to get a USC-Penn State conference football game
Here are some winners and losers from the latest reshuffle round.
Winner: Big Ten
Clear. The 126-year-old conference played another expansion with Thursday’s news. The league will grow to 16 teams by 2024 and will add the best football brand available (in USC) and an iconic brand (UCLA), both based in the Los Angeles market.
Previously, the league added Penn State in 1990, Nebraska in 2011, and Maryland and Rutgers in 2014.
Is 16 the magic number? That’s where the SEC will be soon. The ACC has 14 football members, the Big 12 will have 12, and the Pac-12, if it doesn’t move now, 10. That’s 32 teams for two leagues, 36 for three, plus football-independent Notre Dame. The case grows stronger for those who believe college football will end with two or four super conferences.
Loser: UCLA and USC Olympic Sports
Teams that basked in heat and didn’t often venture far from the Pacific Time Zone will now battle the Midwestern climates and point north — points several time zones away.
The Olympic sports, such as athletics, swimming, are collateral damage when rescheduled. Schools can and should come together to end the travel folly, perhaps by aligning their Olympic sports programs more geographically.
Winner: Big 12
Really? Finally? After serving as a punching bag through previous waves of reshuffles, the Big 12 finds itself in some sort of predator mode here.
Texas and Oklahoma losing to the SEC hurt. The addition of Brigham Young, Houston, Cincinnati and Central Florida softened the blow and gave the conference new energy.
With the Big Ten and SEC soon to be 16 teams each, the Big 12 seems well positioned to add some remaining Pac-12 members and increase its appeal to future TV and streaming partners.
Arizona and the state of Arizona have long been rumored to be Big 12 possibilities; former Colorado member knows the area; and Utah-BYU would automatically become one of the league’s biggest rivalries.
Remember when the Pac-12 sent chills through the Heartland as former Commissioner Larry Scott toured the Southwest ready to invite Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and create the Pac-16? Colorado had already joined, after all.
The plan was foiled by Texas. The newly created Longhorn network could not be incorporated into the Pac-12 network and the deal fell apart. This swing-and-miss meant keeping the Big 12 alive, and now it’s the Pac-12 that finds itself in scramble mode.
Loser: The Alliance
That big show of Big Ten/ACC/Pac-12 power a year ago, dedicated to “a commitment to and prioritization of student-athlete well-being, academic and athletic opportunities, experiences and diverse educational programs,” according to a brochure, may have need a break.
The alliance has achieved this: killed the 12-team playoff idea.
Winner: College football viewers
Rescheduling improves fall Saturday matchups for TV ratings that support rights fees. And the moves over the past few years mean we’ll see more regular-season clashes like Alabama-Oklahoma, USC-Ohio State, and Georgia-Texas. That’s good stuff.
Loser: Rose Bowl
The Granddaddy of Them All will have to figure this out. If the Pac-12 is sold for parts, the Rose Bowl will lose an anchor. Maybe it could become the site of the Big Ten Championship Game.