Other candidates to join USC, UCLA in the Big Ten Conference
Rumors quickly materialized into press releases on Thursday with the news that USC and UCLA will join the Big Ten Conference in 2024. Change is coming swift and in droves to college sports after another transformative announcement.
According to multiple media reports, the Big Ten’s additions might not be complete. Some believe that the conference could expand to as many as 20 teams (or more). With geography and proximity out the window, schools in the Power 5 might soon become game pieces on the board to be collected.
For the purposes of this exercise, we assume the Big Ten adds four more schools. The only other criteria is program cache and if it is an AAU institution, which is something conference leadership has made clear is important.
“AAU member universities — 63 in the United States and two in Canada — are on the leading edge of innovation, scholarship, and solutions that contribute to scientific progress, economic development, security, and well-being,” the AAU’s website reads.
With that in mind, here are some of the other big-name candidates that could be on the board.
With USC and UCLA coming over from the Pac-12, dipping back into that conference is a logical starting point. Other AAU programs in the Pac-12 include Oregon, California, Stanford, Washington, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. The Big Ten’s biggest splash of this group would come from Oregon and Washington, who are the best football/basketball combo of the bunch. It would also extend the conference’s reach up the entirety of the west coast and plant their flag in the pacific northwest.
Stanford seems like another good fit given the Big Ten’s emphasis on academics. This would be a popular choice among the conference presidents. California checks a lot of boxes, too.
ACC candidates (and one from the Big 12)
Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech are the five AAU member schools from the ACC. The ACC might have an interesting future ahead of itself if the two-superconference showdown between the SEC and Big Ten materializes.
Most of the cache from this pool of candidates is in basketball, but each school has had its fair share of football success. Pittsburgh makes the most geographical sense, but that does not seem to weigh heavily anymore. Duke and North Carolina would bring blue blood power to basketball, but if football resources are a consideration how mich is being added there?
The ACC’s biggest wild card is in the form of who is not officially in the conference.
Notre Dame has an agreement with the ACC to play against its teams in football without joining. In a scenario where everything is up for grabs, would it finally be time to bury the hatchet with the Big Ten? They have nothing to gain by being an independent. It is going to be time soon to choose a side. Where the Irish wind up is one of college sports’ most intriguing plot threads.
One final school to note is Kansas out of the Big-12. They are an AAU program and there were reports last summer there was Big Ten interest. If the Big-12 falls through, they will need a landing spot somewhere. That will not move the needle from a football perspective, though.
Who are the best picks for a 20-team Big Ten?
If the Big Ten has to pick four more, Oregon, Washington, Virginia and Pittsburgh might be the most realistic options. Notre Dame is a pipe dream until otherwise noted, but that would be the biggest power grab the conference could pull off.
Adding the four teams above gives the Big Ten a presence up and down both the east and west coasts. All check the boxes of AAU institutions that the conference presidents put a premium on.
How would the scheduling work? That could be an exercise for another day, but current divisions would likely be scrapped in favor of pods.