Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Lincoln Riley says USC football is ‘excited to compete in the Big Ten’ as Trojans prepare for Pac-12 exit

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USATSI

When Lincoln Riley accepted the USC coaching job in late November of last year, the school had been competing as members of the Pac-12 for nearly a century. But even though the Trojans are now set to begin playing in the Big Ten — a much tougher football conference — in 2024, Riley struck a positive tone Sunday in his first public remarks on the looming transition.

In a statement distributed by the USC athletic department, Riley said that university leadership “have been completely aligned with the vision of what our athletic department can be, while always putting our student-athletes first.”

“This move to the Big Ten Conference positions all of our teams for long-term success,” Riley said in the statement. “It provides our student-athletes with more exposure, new resources and challenges them with elite competition. USC Football is excited to compete in the Big Ten.”

While collecting wins in the Pac-12 would likely have come easier for Riley, there are some advantages to be had from joining the Big Ten. In particular, the Trojans’ athletic department will be positioned to capitalize financially on the Big Ten’s new TV rights contract, which is expected to exceed $1 billion annually. Presumably, a significant portion of the Trojans’ cut from that deal will go to support a football program that last won a national title in 2004.

In the meantime, Riley will have two seasons of Pac-12 football during which to lay the foundation for his program at USC. The Trojans’ 2022 slate ranks No. 9 in CBS Sports’ breakdown of the conference’s toughest schedules, which should give him a chance to begin his tenure on a successful note after USC struggled to a 4-8 record last season.

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