I saw the funniest joke on the internet on Thursday.
It was this one about USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten. I couldn’t stop laughing about it.
Hits computer screen
Oh that’s real. That’s a thing that’s actually going to happen.
This isn’t some made-up NCAA Football 2024 create-a-conference. It’s not some other column on the internet arguing for conference expansion.
No, it’s real. And as much as you and I want to sit here laughing and joking, the Big Ten isn’t here to mess around anymore. Kevin Warren and the 16 universities just sent a note to the SEC that it’s not going to be a one-horse race for college football dominance.
But please allow me to have a couple of chuckles about this first.
Is the State College airport big enough to handle transcontinental jets?
Things located five miles away from Big Ten campuses: Madison’s beautiful capitol building, Boalsburg and, now, the Pacific Ocean.
The addition of USC and UCLA is not about a looming TV deal. It’s not primarily about the money, even.
OK, I’ll stop with the jokes. But seriously, this isn’t Jim Delaney’s Big Ten anymore.
Were USC and UCLA the first two colleges I thought of when plumes of smoke started to come out of the Big Ten’s headquarters? Probably not, no. Not really. Actually not at all. But it’s one that I’m quite alright with.
When this “joke” first surfaced last year around the time Texas and Oklahoma announced they were joining the SEC, I thought it had no substance.
Even today, when I saw the first tweet about this as I waited in line at Chipotle, I thought it was another Sir Yacht-type leak.
Source: USC and UCLA are planning to leave for the Big Ten as early as 2024. Move *has not been finalized* at the highest levels of power.
— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) June 30, 2022
But by the time my chicken bowl with white rice, mild salsa and extra cheese had settled, the Big Ten’s rich history of college football and basketball picked up two strong additions. A new TV deal is now even more valuable to the conference than before. Just like that, the conference’s footprint now stomps down over the three largest cities in America.
While USC and UCLA haven’t been USC and UCLA of late, these additions once again raise the stakes for a conference that has a football stadium with a cornfield growing in it.
If the conference decides to hold on to its divisions, teams in the west will have real tests to get through. Now, sports talk radio in all three of those cities will have to talk about the Big Ten. And if a team from the east has two losses but wins over a top-3 team in the country and a Big Ten title over a USC or UCLA, maybe they will make the playoffs this time around. (Can you tell I’m still bitter about 2016?)
The conference’s other sports will benefit greatly from it as well. We’ll get to see some of the bluebloods duke it out in conference play and not just hoping for those types of matchups in late March anymore. The conference’s baseball programs will have to step it up. And good lord, the volleyball just got scary good.
But this still all feels weird. It’s going to feel weird for quite a while. Penn State was once the red-headed stepchild of the conference, then Nebraska and then Maryland and Rutgers. It’s hard to picture USC players dealing with the freezing cold winds in Minnesota in November or UCLA fans asking for anything that isn’t boxed wine at the Phyrst.
The 10 p.m. ET kickoffs for Penn State-UCLA are going to take a little getting used to. Even the dichotomy of Iowa’s proud farmers sitting next to USC’s movie stars is quite funny to me.
It’s a good joke for now. But Kevin Warren and the rest of the Big Ten won’t have the country laughing when the money and the grasp of the conference take its full grip against the SEC.
This move just put the Big Ten on the map truly from coast to coast.
Darian Somers is a 2016 Penn State graduate currently living in Frederick, Maryland. You can follow him on Twitter at @StuffSomersSays.