‘What does it matter?’ High School Recruits Respond to UCLA and USC’s Move to Big Ten

Sherman Oaks Notre Dame's sophomore Wyatt Becker's reaction to USC and UCLA's move to the Big Ten: "What does it matter?"

Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s sophomore Wyatt Becker’s response to USC and UCLA’s move to the Big Ten: “Who cares?” (Eric Sondheimer/Los Angeles Times)

Wyatt Becker, a sophomore quarterback at Sherman Oaks Oaks Notre Dame High with 16 college scholarship offers, said he heard the news about USC and UCLA leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten via Twitter.

“What does it matter?” he said was his response.

high school sports recruits from all over California had similar thoughts of shock.

“I was really confused,” said Simi Valley sophomore quarterback Steele Pizzella. “It’s surprising. I wouldn’t know why they would leave because they are in a good place especially with Lincoln Riley just to get there at USC and UCLA has something going on too.”

The decision will change the recruiting landscape for USC and UCLA, as well as the other Pac-12 schools that have used Southern California as a recruiting hotbed. Will recruits want to go to Oregon or Arizona for another four years without an annual visit to Los Angeles and rivalry that ends as early as 2024? And will Michigan and Ohio State, which have already started recruiting heavily in Southern California, increase their newfound love of recruiting the area?

“I think it’s really neat for schools from all over the country coming from the west,” Pizzella said. “That could change the perspective for recruits on the road. You can get the best of both worlds. I know a lot of people from California who are big fans of coaches and teams in the Midwest. It can open various opportunities for recruits. Some may stay with the West, some may want a different culture shock.”

Pizzella, who has 11 scholarship offers, recently made unofficial visits to Michigan and the state of Michigan. He is only 15, but he and his father, Mark, are trying to understand the hiring process and the changes that are taking place.

“It’s a bit shocking, but the way things go in college football, you have to recalibrate and adapt right away,” said Mark Pizzella.

Parents of California teens may encounter new obstacles when traveling to watch their sons and daughters play against Big Ten schools. Instead of hopping on a plane to Arizona, the Bay Area, or Oregon the same day, you should leave on Friday morning to get to Penn State on Saturday afternoon, and travel costs are likely to rise. The question is, will USC and UCLA help subsidize rising parental travel costs?

Women’s basketball players in particular will be affected by a move from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten, as the Pac-12 is considered a powerhouse with Stanford and Oregon among its members. Chatsworth Sierra Canyon has two players, Juju Watkins and MacKenly Randolph, who play for the US U17 national team. Watkins, the No. 1 player in the class of 2023, is being recruited by USC and would be an asset to the new conference. Randolph, a junior, is wooed by UCLA.

“If it improves facilities for a woman and improves quality of life, that’s an advantage,” said Sierra Canyon girls’ basketball coach Alicia Komaki.

Sophomore baseball player Aiden Aguayo of La Mirada announced his commitment to UCLA earlier this week. Now he’s trying to figure out who’s playing in the Big Ten.

“I’m pretty sure it will be a lot more travel,” he said.

One of the first schools to offer Becker was Penn State. Now the recruiters at the school can tell Becker he’ll get a free trip to the Rose Bowl or the Colosseum if he becomes a Nittany Lion.

“It’s weird but cool,” Becker said of a day of stunning developments for recruits in California.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times

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