‘What the heck?’ High school recruits react to UCLA and USC moving to Big Ten

Sophomore Wyatt Becker of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame poses for a photo.
Sophomore Wyatt Becker of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s reaction to USC and UCLA moving to the Big Ten: “What the heck?”
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Wyatt Becker, a sophomore quarterback at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High with 16 college scholarship offers, said he learned the news about USC and UCLA leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten via Twitter.

“What the heck?” he said was his reaction.

High school sports recruits from across California had similar thoughts of shock.

“I was really confused,” said sophomore quarterback Steele Pizzella of Simi Valley. “It’s surprising. I wouldn’t see why they would leave because they’re in a good spot, especially with Lincoln Riley just getting there at USC and UCLA has something going, too.”

USC and UCLA are leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten, a shift that will move college football’s ‘Power Five’ closer to a ‘Power Two.’

June 30, 2022


The decision will change the recruiting landscape for USC and UCLA as well as the other Pac-12 schools that have used Southern California as a recruiting hotbed. Without a yearly visit to Los Angeles and rivalries ending as early as 2024, will recruits still want to go to Oregon or Arizona for four years? And will Michigan and Ohio State, which have already begun to recruit heavily in Southern California, add to their new fondness for recruiting the area?

“I feel it’s very neat for schools from across the country coming out west,” Pizzella said. “That could change the perspective for recruits down the road. You can get the best of both worlds. I know a lot of people from California who are big fans of coaches and teams in the Midwest. It might open different opportunities for recruits. Some might stick to the West, some might want a different culture shock.”

Pizzella, who has 11 scholarship offers, recently took unofficial visits to Michigan and Michigan State. He’s only 15 but he and his father, Mark, are trying to understand the recruiting process and the changes taking place.

“It’s a bit shocking, but the way things are going in college football, you have to recalibrate and adjust on the fly,” Mark Pizzella said.

USC and UCLA’s decision to join the Big Ten in 2024 will make a significant impact in the college sports world. Here’s a breakdown of what the move means.

June 30, 2022

Parents of California teenagers could face new obstacles with travel to see their sons and daughters playing against Big Ten schools. Rather than hopping on a plane to Arizona, the Bay Area or Oregon the same day, you’d have to leave on a Friday morning to get to Penn State on a Saturday afternoon and travel costs will likely soar. The question would be will USC and UCLA help subsidize increasing travel costs for parents?

Women’s basketball players will be particularly affected by a move from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten because the Pac-12 is considered a powerhouse with Stanford and Oregon among its members. Chatsworth Sierra Canyon has two players, Juju Watkins and MacKenly Randolph, playing for the USA U17 national team. Watkins, the No. 1 player in the class of 2023, is being recruited by USC and would be a boon to the new conference. Randolph, a junior, is being wooed by UCLA.


“As a female, if it improves facilities and improves the quality of life, then that’s a benefit,” Sierra Canyon girls’ basketball coach Alicia Komaki said.

USC and UCLA are leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten Conference in 2024, the two schools announced Thursday.

Dec. 14, 2022

Sophomore baseball player Aiden Aguayo of La Mirada announced his commitment to UCLA earlier this week. Now he’s trying to figure out who plays in the Big Ten.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a lot more traveling,” he said.

One of the first schools to offer Becker was Penn State. Now the school’s recruiters can tell Becker he’ll be getting a free trip to the Rose Bowl or the Coliseum if he ends up a Nittany Lion.

“It’s weird but cool,” Becker said of a day with stunning developments for recruits in California.