Breaking down the big numbers behind USC and UCLA's Big Ten travel itineraries

·3 min read
The sun sets on Beaver Stadium during warm ups before a game between Penn State and Michigan
The sun sets on Beaver Stadium during warmups before a game between Big Ten rivals Penn State and Michigan on Oct. 19, 2019. UCLA and USC will see their travel costs rise substantially with move to Big Ten. (Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

Goodbye, airborne power naps to Northern California and snappy two-hours-or-less flights to Colorado and Arizona State.

Time — in a couple years — for USC and UCLA athletes to strap up their neck pillows, take a trip to the campus bookstore for some quality in-flight reading and prepare for marathon trips across the country to Pennsylvania and Ohio.

With Thursday morning’s news that the Trojans and Bruins are leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten Conference, travel and working with athletes’ class schedules may prove more difficult on road trips given the Big Ten’s location. Programs in the conference are centered on the East Coast, like Rutgers and Maryland, or clustered closer around the Great Lakes, like Northwestern and Michigan State.

USC and UCLA Big Ten travel challenges

Nebraska players run onto the field at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln before their spring game in April.
Nebraska players run onto the field at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln before their spring game in April. Conference games against Nebraska — the closest Big Ten opponent to UCLA and USC — would still mean a long flight. (Rebecca S. Gratz / Associated Press)
  • Say UCLA football were to take a road trip for an away game at Nebraska — the closest institution in the Big Ten to the Los Angeles schools at a mere 1,537 miles away. Via Google Maps, that’s about a 22-hour drive depending, you know, on traffic, or a five-hour flight.

  • The farthest school in the Pac-12 from UCLA is Washington, at 1,132 miles. Under a three-hour flight. That’s still 400 miles less than the closest school in the Big Ten, Nebraska.

  • The farthest school in the Big Ten from UCLA is Rutgers, about 2,800 miles away and a five-hour-plus flight. Traveling to Penn State by plane would take upwards of six hours.

  • The average distance from UCLA to another school in the Pac-12 — not including USC — is about 735 miles. The average distance from UCLA to a school in the Big Ten is about 2,160 miles.

Sports like football, which has the benefit of a week between games and simply play less often, will be easier to coordinate. But programs like USC baseball and UCLA softball — who played 53 and 61 games in 2022, respectively — may feel the brunt of travel.

Beginning March 19 and ending May 8, the start of Pac-12 play this past season, UCLA softball took four road trips against Washington, Stanford, Oregon State and Arizona State. That amounted to 12 days away in the span of less than two months. During the 2024-25 school year, two-hour journeys turn into nearly day-long trips, which will only increase the amount of time athletes spend away.

Teams like USC volleyball, meanwhile, don’t have the benefit of staying in one location for multiple days for a series of games. Last season’s carousel included a trip to Colorado Nov. 5, then Utah Nov. 7, then Oregon Nov. 12 and Oregon State Nov. 14. Such a road trip could now include stops at Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland.

Time for future recruits to get comfortable with typing their midterm papers amid the roar of a jet engine.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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