USC and UCLA threw the college football world into chaos by deciding to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten at the start of the 2024-25 season. Now, everyone is speculating about Oregon, Washington, and the “Four Corner” being poached next. However, a different program could have a logical pathway into Big Ten open up for them. That would be Stanford.
Recent changes in the NCAA:
Almost immediately, Oregon and Washington tried to join the USC and UCLA exit train. However, both schools are being told to wait because the Big Ten wants to acquire Notre Dame. This is where the pathway for Stanford to join the Big Ten lies. If Notre Dame decides to cut ties from its current ACC agreements to join the Big Ten, they need a companion. ESPN’s Pete Thamel suggests Stanford would be exactly that.
“If Notre Dame goes — which I don’t think they’re going anywhere imminently — their dance partner would be Stanford,” Thamel said on The Paul Finebaum Show on July 11. On top of that, Stanford is on a rumored Big Ten wish list even without Notre Dame’s involvement.
Why Stanford? What makes that program more enticing than the Oregon brand or Washington’s Seattle market? Well, academics is one thing. Stanford is as top tier as it comes with regards to academics. The Big Ten wants all its members to be part of the Association of American Universities. Stanford has AAU accreditation. In the past, the Big Ten showed it will accept a strong AAU school with average athletics if they are in a desirable market (like Rutgers in New York).
Meanwhile, Stanford is attached to a large media market. The Bay Area ranked sixth in Nielsen’s 2021 DMA Rankings. So, the Big Ten could have exposure in another Top 10 market on the west coast by adding the Cardinal.
Another school outside of USC and UCLA?
Also, it would be wise for the Big Ten to give USC and UCLA another western school to play outside of one another. Stanford fills in that need perfectly while also having built-in perks with those schools. It already has an annual football rivalry with USC, and Notre Dame too. Plus, UCLA and Stanford have plenty of head-to-head history across all sports.
Of course, Stanford’s entrance into the Big Ten depends on Notre Dame. As Thamel noted, Notre Dame isn’t going anywhere soon. They have a NBC football television deal which ends in 2025. Plus, the ACC owns the broadcasting rights to their other sport so they would have to pay an exit fee to move those sports into the Big Ten.
All in all, Stanford finds itself in an advantageous position within a conference fighting for survival. It can wait for Notre Dame’s decision comfortably knowing it is the Fighting Irish’s likely Big Ten partner or see if Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff can materialize a plan to save the conference.