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Archive for July 2, 2022

July 2, 2022 — How might the USC-UCLA move to the Big Ten help or hurt some Olympic sports?

This week’s vote by the Big Ten Conference to accept USC and UCLA as members starting with the fall of 2024 is going to have some wide-ranging consequences throughout the athletic departments of the current Big Ten schools as well as within the two new members.

Both UCLA and USC have athletics programs as wide-ranging as Ivy League schools; UCLA has been particularly successful in many sports, winning 119 NCAA titles.

Sure, every pundit in the world is going to measure this move in terms of just two sports: football and men’s basketball. But look forward — to 2028, when the Olympics come to Los Angeles. There are a number of athletic endeavors which, I think, could either affect, or be affected, by Big Ten membership on the part of USC and UCLA — two Los Angeles schools located a mere 15 miles apart.

Here’s a list:

FIELD HOCKEY: One year ago, the Big Ten was the leader in the game of field hockey, sending Michigan to the 2020-21 NCAA title game and Northwestern to the 2021 championship. Question is, can Big Ten membership move the needle for field hockey at USC and UCLA — and with it, all of Southern California? I guess that depends on where the organizing committee decides to put the field hockey facility. As of now, the plan appears to depend on temporary facilities build on the grounds of Cal State-Dominguez Hills, where a soccer-specific stadium currently stands.

GYMNASTICS: The newcomers are going to run into some resistance for the top of the women’s gymnastics table as Michigan has been a dominant team program in the Big Ten. Neither USC nor UCLA have a men’s gymnastics team, while only five exist in the Big Ten. It might have been a great help to keep the sport alive in an era of shrinking budgets and growing insurance costs.

LACROSSE: If this move had occurred three years ago, a USC entrance into the world of Big Ten women’s lacrosse would have been an enormous splash. The Women of Troy have not been as good the last couple of seasons, but it would be a key beachhead for the sport with the next men’s World Championship being scheduled for San Diego.

SWIMMING: There are currently 12 women’s swimming teams and eight men’s teams in the Big Ten, and the successful USC and UCLA teams could provide an immediate challenge. These two schools have put together impressive resumes when it comes to individuals winning the Olympics. Legends like John Naber, Janet Evans, Brian Goodell, and Tom Jager have swum for these two schools.

TRACK: USC and UCLA have been highly successful in both genders in athletics, peaking with a 1-2 finish in the women’s 2001 NCAA championship. These two teams are likely to dominate the current Big Ten field — to the point where teams like Illinois, Maryland, Indiana, and Purdue may wind up being relegated completely to the sidelines with Northwestern, which dropped the sport in 1987.

VOLLEYBALL: Southern Cal and UCLA have historically have had good volleyball on the court and on the sand. USC is the current women’s beach volleyball champions, and UCLA’s men made the national tournament, falling a game short of making the title match. Oddly enough, in terms of women’s court volleyball, the Big Ten have been on a tear in recent years, putting two teams (Wisconsin and Nebraska) in last December’s final.