Joel Klatt explains why USC's move to the Big Ten shouldn't be a surprise
When news broke last week that USC had secured an exit from the Pac-12 in 2024, it sent shockwaves throughout the country. The Trojans, a legitimate college football blue blood and one of the most powerful athletic departments in collegiate athletics, joining the Big Ten spurred immediate talk of super conferences.
The news was stunning.
But it shouldn’t have been all that surprising.
At least, that’s according to Joel Klatt, who went on The Colin Cowherd Podcast recently to break down the move.
“When there are things going on, you hear little ripples,” Klatt said. “Little things like, ‘Oh, OK, that would be interesting.’ This was, I felt like, very well-kept by everyone involved. And so when I initially heard it, I was surprised and I was shocked. And then three minutes later–after that wears off–it’s like, ‘Well, yeah. Of course this happened.’ If you have any semblance of a 30,000-foot view, this was inevitable in some way.”
The Trojans stand to earn something in the neighborhood of $100 million a year as a Big Ten member. With the league expected to come to an agreement on a $1 billion-a-year media rights deal, the economics of the move make it a no-brainer. The Pac-12, because of issues brought about by former commissioner Larry Scott, isn’t close to the Big Ten or SEC now, in terms of its annual media rights payouts, and future deals for the Big Ten and SEC figure to further exacerbate that gap.
Perhaps new commissioner George Kliavkoff could have enticed the Trojans to stay in the boat by playing the unequal revenue distribution card, but that was a conversation that never materialized—to the chagrin, it seems, of some in the USC athletic department.
“To me, it comes down to economics and exposure,” Klatt continued. “And in the Pac-12, that had degraded. Both of those things (had) drastically, since the beginning of the century really, since the Leinart-Bush days at USC when the Pac-10 at the time was a viable and very healthy and great conference. It has deteriorated to a point that it has become a punchline.
“I’ve thrown that line out there and people think it’s unfair. But it is fair because the Pac-12 is literally a hashtag now called #Pac12AfterDark. No one watches them play. And when you look at the economics of where the SEC is about to go with their media rights deal and where the Big Ten is about to go with their media rights deal and what’s on the horizon for conferences like the Big 12, the Pac-12, the economics weren’t even close. Those conferences were going to start to double-up the others in terms of the revenue distribution per school. And you can’t sit in that situation, so in some ways, USC’s hands were totally forced.”
You can listen to the full podcast with Klatt and Cowherd below: