Column: What a summer blockbuster

Published 2:34 pm Friday, July 1, 2022

I am used to having a summer blockbuster at the box office Fourth of July weekend, but I was in no way prepared for this year’s biggest surprise.

Coming to a stadium near you in the fall of 2024 will be the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles in the runaway hit — “Moving to the Big Ten.”

Talk about your blockbuster. It will be starring some of the biggest names in college athletics and two of the most storied sports programs in its history.

Like “The Offer,” which I recently watched about how the original “Godfather” movie got made, there must have been a lot of backroom, behind closed-door meetings to get this deal done because it came out of the blue. Even the most seasoned sports writers seemed shocked by Thursday’s announcement.

We all thought last year was a big deal when Texas and Oklahoma bolted from the Big 12 to join the already talent-laden Southeastern Conference. But that pales in comparison to the Trojans and Bruins heading to the Big Ten, which will now stretch from “sea to shining sea.”

I guess the biggest surprise is not that there is another conference shift coming to college athletics, but the fact that the PAC-12 and the Big Ten were supposed to be in an alliance, along with the Atlantic Coast Conference. So, raiding the best two teams from a member of that alliance is not going to play well in some corners of the college sports world.

It does further the theory that eventually, there will be only a couple of super conferences, mainly the Big Ten and the SEC. The other Power Five conferences, like the ACC, will be on the outside looking in if teams from those leagues do not bolt.

That also puts Notre Dame in a precarious situation as the Fighting Irish are in the ACC except for football, which we all know is the driving force behind all this shifting. Notre Dame may be forced to pick a side because it does not want to end up without a dance partner when the final song plays.

This is not over. Even as the word was getting out about USC and UCLA, rumors began to play against other PAC-12 schools heading to other conferences. That is the college landscape as it is currently drawn. The NCAA’s governing body is doing nothing to control the situation.

The NCAA should shoulder much of the blame. Its apparent lack of leadership in this arena has led us down a path there may be no returning from. Many have believed for decades not that “big-time” college athletics is no longer an amateur sport. It resembles something more along the lines of the minor leagues for the National Football League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball. It is hard to argue that point.

College sports may not be in a better place today than it was 24 hours ago, but for the fans of the Big Ten, getting two storied programs to join a conference that is already legendary is a win. On the flip side, I feel bad for the PAC-12 fans as the two teams they could always count on to be competitive on the football field will now be representing a league in the Midwest.

As we head into the heart of summer, who knows what changes are ahead. Will other teams decide to leave their current conferences and head to greener pastures? Only time will tell.

Until them, let us hope that the upcoming college season provides us with plenty of thrills before we have to shift gears and prepare ourselves for the new Big Ten Conference.

 

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com.