COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith along with President Kristina Johnson held a news conference Friday to discuss USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten. You can watch the full news conference in the video player above.

“It’s an unbelievable time for the Big Ten Conference and the Ohio State University,” Smith began the news conference. “Just so excited about our future. It’s phenomenal.” 

Smith said both California schools formally applied to the Big Ten Conference Thursday morning, and presidents for conference universities began to immediately review their applications.

Johson, who was an athlete at Stanford (a Pac-12 school) during her college career, said this opens opportunities for athletes at OSU.  

“Which is why I’m so passionate about the opportunities we have here at Ohio State; thirty-six sports and a thousand athletes. So, when we think about what those students get, I’m excited about the opportunity to have another venue for them to compete in.”  

The news of a potential expansion broke Thursday afternoon and quickly changed from a possibility to a done deal after Big Ten chancellors and presidents unanimously approved the addition of UCLA and USC.

The two California schools, who are long-time members of the Pac-12, announced they will join the Big Ten in 2024.

Even though the conference has traditionally been considered a Midwest league, expansion in the past 35 years has brought Penn State in 1990, Nebraska in 2011, and Maryland and Rutgers in 2014.

UCLA and USC coming east is the latest move in major conference realignment, which began when Texas and Oklahoma announced they would leave the Big 12 for the SEC in 2025, bringing the SEC to 16 members.

Since then, the Big 12 added four schools that hadn’t been part of a major conference and some smaller conferences adjusted ranks, but this would be the first time since then that schools from a major league have left to join another one.

When asked if the addition was in response to the Southeastern Conference’s expansion, Smith said it was more about the Big Ten’s needs.  

“Our marketing and media right’s opportunities, along with the great relationship that we have with two institutions that culturally fit us was just too good to pass up.” 

Smith has a close relationship with UCLA Athletic Director Martin Jarmond who previously served as Ohio State’s deputy director of athletics, moving up the ranks after arriving as an associate athletic director for development in 2009.