Shock spread quickly throughout the college football landscape this week when chatter began that USC and UCLA would be joining the Big Ten Conference. Some fans eagerly await more high-level competition in the conference, while others question the geographical outlook of what used to be strictly midwest college athletics in the Big Ten.
For Michigan faithful, a lot comes along with two of the premier universities in the country joining the conference. But, let me tell you, this comes with some really cool perks, too.
I feel like I am the perfect candidate to put together a piece like this. I was born and raised as a Michigan Wolverines fan in Southern California. For the first 17 years of my life, I was about an hour (depending on traffic) away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles while also moving to Wisconsin now and understanding the heritage of Big Ten sports and the geographical rivalries that drive this conference.
So, I decided to compile reasons these two Los Angeles schools really excite me as a Michigan fan, and why I have my concerns with them as well. Here’s what I came up with:
1. Access to Michigan athletics out West
I watched the maize and blue take the field every single fall Saturday of my life. Growing up in California, they hardly ever played anywhere near where I lived, and if they did, the price of tickets was astronomical. It was essentially Rose Bowl or bust for me to see my beloved Wolverines, and I was never granted the opportunity to see them play live because of that.
In fact, my first live Michigan football game actually came in 2021 when they came to Madison, and I have yet to catch a game at the Big House (although I have visited several times).
As soon as I saw that USC and UCLA were joining the Big Ten, I texted my dad (who now lives in Arizona) and we discussed visiting family and friends in California to see Michigan play against one of these schools. It’s truly a dream come true.
I’d like to think that the next young Wolverines fans out West will get to have that dream of seeing their team play live much earlier in life than I did.
2. Rose Bowl Stadium
Even though I never actually went to a Rose Bowl Game, I got a taste of it going to some home UCLA football games growing up. Observing the history of that stadium with the unbelievable ambiance of Pasadena is going to be a real treat for Michigan fans who make this a destination game on their calendars. It’s truly the pinnacle of college football.
Whether it’s the Rose Bowl signage on the exterior of the stadium, the Court of Champions that features every Rose Bowl Game outcome on individual plaques, or the San Gabriel Mountains in the background, Michigan fans are going to fall in love with everything this place has to offer.
3. Welcoming USC and UCLA fans
In the last two decades, there have been a lot of ups and downs for these programs in both football and basketball. While some fans come and go as bandwagoners, USC football and UCLA basketball have some of the most loyal fanbases around.
There is a lot to root for in Southern California with two professional football, men’s basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer teams in the LA area. But that never stopped the Trojan and Bruin flags from flying and having a society that was ingrained in college athletics. The rivalry out there between the two is fierce.
USC once was a perennial powerhouse and they very well could be on their way back shortly on the field with Lincoln Riley taking over. The Bruins basketball team has returned to some impressive play and has the history of the John Wooden days. Both of these programs know what it takes to win, and they have been unbelievably successful at it, and their fans will let you know about it. That will certainly be welcomed in a conference like the Big Ten that knows a lot about success and championships.
1. Late-night tip/kickoffs
In the Maize n Brew Slack channel, the first thing I mentioned about this was that I don’t want 10 p.m. ET kickoffs or even later tips for basketball. However, that is not outside of the realm of possibility. It’s going to be really clunky to keep everyone happy for the ridiculous ratings that Los Angeles can bring while playing a team like Michigan.
I remember all of the groaning and moaning before and during the Michigan-UNLV basketball in 2021 that was delayed and didn't even tip until almost 1 a.m. ET. That could happen once or twice a season now, and maybe even more if more West Coast schools join the conference in the long term.
2. This TV deal junk
Is anyone else starting to get really concerned about this TV deal? Apparently, Apple is back in play for the Big Ten TV rights and suitors are lining up based on The Detroit News’ report. I already pay for too many streaming services and we are seeing an overpopulation of them altogether.
My biggest concern is fans may have to pay for these services and then an added fee to get every game, kind of like ESPN+ and then the PPV for UFC fights and the like.
Content is flowing for the consumer, but it keeps getting pricier and pricier because everyone has their own service like this now. If Apple really is in the game, that could pull some games completely off cable as well. NBC also has begun to put some Notre Dame games behind their Peacock paywall, too. Either of those two winning the bid would make me very concerned about the availability of games moving forward.
3. Divisional Realignment
The divisional realignment for football was already in store, as rumors of different systems to crown the championship were swirling. But how in the world are we doing this now with USC and UCLA in the fold?
My fear is Michigan winds up taking on USC in football on a yearly basis purely for the ratings jump. While the idea of Jim Harbaugh and Lincoln Riley going head-to-head is thrilling, it could realistically mean the Wolverines wind up taking on Ohio State, USC and Michigan State every season. That would be a gauntlet of a schedule. Unfortunately, it’s definitely not outside the realm of possibility.
But to be the best, you gotta beat the best. The 2021 Wolverines would tell you no different.