Sports

Breaking down what a move to the Big Ten means for UCLA and USC Olympic sports

The Big Ten Conference needs a bigger trophy case.

UCLA and USC will bring 227 NCAA team championships to the Big Ten in 2024 after shocking the college sports world with a dramatic divorce from the Pac-12 on Thursday. Though huge paydays from football and men’s basketball media deals were a driving force behind the shift, UCLA and USC’s successful Olympic sports must also adjust to new competition, rivalries and traditions.

USC and UCLA’s men’s volleyball and water polo programs will continue in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, and the beach volleyball teams will remain in the Pac-12 because the Big Ten doesn’t sponsor those sports.

Here is what awaits each nonrevenue sport in the Big Ten:

Softball

Last national champion from the Pac-12: UCLA, 2019

Last national champion from the Big Ten: Michigan, 2005

What’s they’re getting into: UCLA will have no problem dominating the Big Ten, but at what cost? The Bruins will have to travel four to five hours every other week to play mostly inferior teams that won’t help their strength of schedule. They’ll be without rival Arizona, and the lack of top conference competition could hinder UCLA’s ability to earn a top seed in postseason play, making the path to the championship series in Oklahoma City harder.

The Big Ten also selects its automatic NCAA qualifier through a conference tournament, so the Bruins will have to play an additional postseason event before beginning the NCAA tournament.

UCLA’s Kyla Ross completes her uneven parallel bars routine during the 2018 NCAA meet won by the Bruins.

(Jeff Roberson / Associated Press)

Gymnastics

Last national champion from the Pac-12: UCLA, 2018

Last national champion from the Big Ten: Michigan, 2021

What they’re getting into: The UCLA vs. Utah gymnastics rivalry thrived when the Utes joined the Pac-12 in 2011. The teams have shared the last eight conference titles, with the Utes winning five of them and capitalizing on UCLA’s recent struggles.

Utah and California leapfrogged the Bruins in the Pac-12 rankings the past last two seasons, but UCLA’s influence in the sport remains high with its social media activity. UCLA will take its viral floor routines to a competitive gymnastics conference led by Michigan and Minnesota, which earned the No. 8 seed in the NCAA field last year.

Women’s basketball

Last national champion from the Pac-12: Stanford, 2021

Last national champion from the Big Ten: Purdue, 1999 (Maryland won in 2006 as a member of the ACC)

What they’re getting into: UCLA and USC are entering a competitive Big Ten that earned 34 berths to the NCAA tournament with three Elite Eight appearances during the last six tournaments. The Pac-12, however, had more teams reach the tournament during that span (36) and more success, with six teams advancing to the Final Four and one winning the national championship.

UCLA is a consistent force in the Pac-12 but has yet to move into the top tier with Stanford, Oregon and recent party crasher Arizona. Moving to a conference with less top-tier talent could help the Bruins claim their first conference title since 2006.

USC is just looking for a way to get to its first NCAA tournament since 2014.

USC women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb speaks with guard Rayah Marshall during a game against Stanford on Feb. 6.

USC women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb speaks with guard Rayah Marshall during a game against Stanford on Feb. 6.

(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

Baseball

Last national champion from the Pac-12: Oregon State, 2018

Last national champion from the Big Ten: Ohio State, 1966

What they’re getting into: UCLA, which has hosted seven regionals under coach John Savage, is positioned to rule the Big Ten immediately. The Bruins will get some challenges from Michigan — which upset the top-seeded Bruins in the regional round in 2019 en route to the World Series — Maryland and Minnesota, but no Big Ten team brings the consistency of UCLA.

USC, the former dynasty that has been to the NCAA tournament only twice in the last 20 years, may find an easier path back to success in the Big Ten.

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Women’s soccer

Last national champion from the Pac-12: Stanford, 2019

Last national champion from the Big Ten: Penn State, 2015

What they’re getting into: The Bruins and Trojans will miss fellow Pac-12 powerhouse Stanford, but the Big Ten still provides high competition. The conference sent six schools to the NCAA tournament in 2021, including Rutgers, which earned a No. 1 seed and advanced to the College Cup. The Pac-12 had only four.

UCLA and USC have finished first and second, respectively, in the Pac-12 for two consecutive years.

Men’s soccer

Last national champion from the Pac-12: Stanford, 2017

Last national champion from the Big Ten: Maryland, 2018

What they’re getting into: Led by Oregon State and Washington, the Pac-12 had the nation’s top RPI last year. Similar powers lurk in the Big Ten, where Indiana and Maryland have each won national titles in the last 10 years. Indiana won it all in 2012 and finished second in 2017 and 2020. UCLA played in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2018 last season and hasn’t advanced past the second round since losing to Virginia in a shootout in the 2014 national championship game.

Men’s tennis

Last national champion from the Pac-12: USC, 2014

Last national champion from the Big Ten: Illinois, 2003

What they’re getting into: A historic tennis power in the Pac-12, USC could dominate in the Big Ten. While the Bruins haven’t accumulated as many national championships as their neighbors, they’ve collected numerous runner-up finishes on the national stage during the last two decades. The schools may face challenges from Illinois and Ohio State, which finished second in the nation in 2018.

Women’s tennis

Last national champion from the Pac-12: Stanford, 2019

Last national champion from the Big Ten: None

What they’re getting into: UCLA and USC will be happy to get away from Stanford. The Bruins and Cardinal are the only teams to participate in every NCAA team tournament and the streak should continue for UCLA once competition migrates toward the Midwest. The Trojans have missed the NCAA tournament only twice since it began in 1982. Michigan, Northwestern and Ohio State are consistent postseason performers, but have yet to win a team national title. The closest was Ohio State’s run to the semifinals in 2017.

Women’s volleyball

Last national champion from the Pac-12: Stanford, 2019

Last national champion from the Big Ten: Wisconsin, 2021

What they’re getting into: The Big Ten leads all Division I conferences in RPI, thanks to powerhouses in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Penn State, which combined have won five national championships in the last 10 years. With three national championships in the latter half of the 2010s, Stanford disrupted that midwestern dominance as the Pac-12’s volleyball darling.

Having faced the Cardinal each season, the Trojans and Bruins should ready themselves for competing against several teams of Stanford’s caliber.

Men’s track and field

Last national champion from the Pac-12: Oregon, 2015

Last national champion from the Big Ten: Minnesota, 1948

What they’re getting into: USC and UCLA should fare well in the Big Ten. With Oregon’s prolific success during the last decade and Stanford’s rise, the Pac-12 is consistently in the mix at the NCAA championships each year. During last season’s championships, five Pac-12 schools, including USC, placed in the top 25. Only Minnesota achieved that feat for the Big Ten.

Women’s track and field

Last national champion from the Pac-12: USC, 2021

Last national champion from the Big Ten: None

What they’re getting into: No Big Ten team has won a national championship. Meanwhile, USC won championships in 2021 and 2018 and added a runner-up finish in 2019.

During the 2022 season, four Pac-12 teams placed in the top 20, with Arizona State and Colorado earning eight- and ninth-place finishes. With the exception of Ohio State, Big Ten teams finished well out of the top 25. Expect the Trojans to dominate in the Midwest.

The USC women's track and field team accepts the team trophy after winning the 2021 NCAA championship in Eugene, Ore.

The USC women’s track and field team accepts the trophy after winning the 2021 NCAA championship in Eugene, Ore.

(Associated Press)

Men’s cross-country

Last national champion from the Pac-12: Colorado, 2014

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Last national champion from the Big Ten: Wisconsin, 2011

What they’re getting into: The Pac-12 is no stranger to elite men’s cross country. Colorado and Stanford placed in the top 10 at the national championships last season. The Big Ten’s main hub for distance runners is Wisconsin, which finished 11th in 2021. While UCLA’s overall competition may decrease after the move, it’ll still face teams like Minnesota and Michigan State that accomplished something the Bruins didn’t last year: competing in the championship meet.

Women’s cross-country

Last national champion from the Pac-12: Colorado, 2018

Last national champion from the Big Ten: Michigan State, 2014

What they’re getting into: The Trojans and Bruins will find slower competition in the Big Ten once they leave the conference headlined by Colorado and Oregon, which have combined for three championships in the last decade. That is not to say things will be easy for them in the Midwest up against teams like Michigan and Michigan State, which have experienced recent success on the national stage.

Men’s swimming and diving

Last national champion from the Pac-12: California, 2022

Last national champion from the Big Ten: Michigan, 2013

What they’re getting into: In 2024, the Trojans and Bruins will exit a strong Pac-12 swimming and diving culture dominated by California, which has been a national champion or runner-up each year since 2010. At the 2022 meet, Arizona State and Stanford joined the Golden Bears in the top 10. The Big Ten boasts talent in the pool as well — Indiana and Ohio State placed fifth and ninth, respectively, in the championships.

Women’s swimming and diving

Last national champion from the Pac-12: Stanford, 2019

Last national champion from the Big Ten: None

What they’re getting into: The Pac-12 dominates women’s swimming and diving. Stanford and Cal have six national championships since 2012. The Big Ten hasn’t won a women’s swim and dive NCAA championship, but Ohio State and Michigan placed in the top 10 ahead of the Trojans during the 2022 national championships.

Men’s golf

Last national champion from the Pac-12: Stanford, 2019

Last national champion from the Big Ten: Minnesota, 2002

What they’re getting into: Stanford has become the Pac-12’s golf standout. No equivalent exists in the Big Ten. The Bruins and Trojans will miss the competition of the Pac-12, which leads the Big Ten in overall performance thanks to the Cardinal and Arizona State, the runner-up in this year’s national championships.

Women’s golf

Last national champion from the Pac-12: Stanford, 2022

Last national champion from the Big Ten: Purdue, 2010

What they’re getting into: Stanford and Oregon finished first and second, respectively, in the national championships last season to further cement the Pac-12’s golf supremacy. The Trojans and the Bruins contributed to that legacy in 2013 and 2011. Stanford, Washington, Arizona State and Arizona continued it well after. USC and UCLA should expect to dominate the Big Ten on the green come 2024.

Women’s lacrosse

Last national champion from the Pac-12: None

Last national champion from the Big Ten: Maryland, 2019

What they’re getting into: The Trojans will have their work cut out for them in the Big Ten. Maryland has won four national championships since 2014, and Northwestern is a traditional power. USC enters a field with a much richer lacrosse culture. Even Pac-12 champion Stanford might struggle through.

Women’s rowing

Last national champion from the Pac-12: Washington, 2019

Last national champion from the Big Ten: Ohio State, 2015

What they’re getting into: Stanford and Washington are the pride of Pac-12 rowing. The Bruins and Trojans will no longer have to wade past those forces, but they’ll be challenged by Ohio State, which won three national championships from 2013 to 2015 and was a runner-up in 2016.

They’ll leave behind a Pac-12 that has finished first or second in the championships 20 times since the competition began in 1997.



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