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Say goodbye to tradition and rivalries

Our very own California corespondent weighs in on UCLA and USC moving to the Big Ten

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This makes no sense. Absolutely no sense. The Bruins and Trojans in the Big Ten? Is this a joke?

When you think of the major players in every major conference, the programs that keep that conference alive, it’s ‘Bama and Georgia in the SEC, Duke and UNC in the ACC, Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12, Michigan and Ohio State in the Big Ten (don’t kill me), and UCLA and USC in the Pac 12. If you remove any of those teams from their conference, college sports as a whole will suffer, especially if the conference is not very deep, such is the case of the Pac 12.

If UCLA and USC make the move, there is no longer any reason for Oregon to stick around. They’ll be next, followed by Washington, Arizona and Utah. What does that mean for current B1G teams that may be at the bottom of the barrel in terms of competing, such as Rutgers, Maryland and Northwestern? They’ve got to go elsewhere now too, right?

On the surface, this move sounds like a logistical nightmare. College teams should not be traveling halfway/all the way (Rutgers, Maryland, Penn State) across the country for intra-conference matchups. Ultimately, that’s one of the reasons that conferences exist. At least Texas and Oklahoma’s moves to the SEC make some sort of geographical sense. The closest B1G team to California is Nebraska which is a whopping 1,500 miles from UCLA’s campus in Westwood.

This move sets the precedent that any team can join any conference at any time, opening the door for a multitude of moves that I expect we’ll see relatively soon. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if within the next five years, conferences are wiped away all together or the Big Ten and SEC emerge as two super-conferences that would host 20-25 teams each.

From a money standpoint, which is entirely what this is about, I get it. UCLA and USC would go from playing Oregon State and Washington State to playing Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Immediately, ticket sales increase, television ratings increase and revenue skyrockets...but at what cost? UCLA and USC have spent decades building a brand and a legacy that may be very quickly diminished by abandoning the Pac 12.

There’s a whole other layer to this that absolutely kills me on a personal level. For those of you who don’t know too much about me, I’m currently a student at UW but I grew up in Los Angeles as a die-hard UCLA Bruin. My earliest childhood heroes were not the Dodgers or the Lakers (outside of Kobe), but were guys like Jordan Farmar, Darren Collison and Aaron Afflalo who led the Bruins to three straight Final Four’s in the 2000s.

This has never been an issue for me, as outside of meeting up in the 2021 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament, I can’t recall a time over the last couple of years where my two schools have played each other. As one can imagine, this will really complicate things for me.

Being someone that grew up on the west coast, I feel qualified to say that everyone out here knows that the Pac 12 is the joke of the major five conferences. Nobody outside of the pacific time zone watches it and the level of competition just isn’t there anymore.

Since being implemented in 2014, the Pac 12 has sent two teams to the College Football Playoff (Oregon - 2014, Washington - 2016). Since the Bruins’ three straight Final Four appearances spanning 2006-2008, the Pac 12 has sent a total of two teams back to the Final Four (Oregon - 2017, UCLA - 2020). Neither team reached the title game, and no Pac 12 team has won it all since Arizona in 1997.

The only thing that has kept this conference alive is the rich tradition and history of some of their most historic programs, specifically UCLA and USC. Removing these two key pieces from the Pac 12 puzzle will ultimately kill the conference, and if you haven't been able to tell, I hate the thought of it.

With NIL becoming free agency and the insane realignment that I expect we’ll see over the next couple of years, college sports are taking another huge leap towards treating these kids like professionals, for better or worse. Say goodbye to tradition, say goodbye to conference rivalries, enjoy the last few years of it while you can. College sports as we know it is no more, change is coming and it’s coming fast.