Opinion: Now is the time for a varsity USC softball team

As USC moves to the Big Ten, the athletic department needs to uphold its values of inclusivity and athleticism by giving softball players an official opportunity.

UCLA softball players huddle together before the game. They are all wearing light blue uniforms.

Last summer, USC shocked the collegiate world when the school announced its move from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten in 2024. The athletic department will receive more revenue from broadcasting and prime-time matchups with new rivals.

The move has been seen by some experts as a decision driven by football and basketball. However, the change of scenery also offers a chance to empower underrepresented sports by establishing new franchises and providing more opportunities.

One of these possibilities should be an official USC softball team.

When USC moves from one Power Five conference to another, it will be the odd school out. All 14 teams in the Big Ten currently have an official softball program. UCLA, USC’s partner in the move to the Big Ten, has one of the most dominant softball programs in the nation.

In the Pac-12, USC is one of three schools that does not have a softball team, and it is the only Pac-12 school in California that does not have one.

The Golden State has long been regarded as a softball hotspot. According to, in 2018, 20% of all Division I athletes originated from California. However, for the numerous talented softball players across the state, the gates of USC are sealed shut, barring talented student-athletes from enjoying the active environment and prestigious academics of Troy.

The softball movement in California comes at a time when the sport is rapidly gaining popularity throughout the nation. In 2021, an average of 1.2 million people tuned into each game of the Women’s College World Series — 450,000 more than the Men’s College World Series. More eyes are on the sport, which means more revenue for institutions and players.

NIL funds are a good indicator of how popular a sport is at the national level. From 2021 to 2022, softball players received 2.3% of these funds, according to the Associated Press.

While that percentage may sound insignificant, other sports already established at USC, such as women’s soccer, men’s volleyball, women’s lacrosse and men’s track and field, received fewer NIL contributions than softball. In other words, softball would likely make more money for the university and the players than many active Trojan athletic programs.

So why doesn’t USC have a softball team? The obvious reason is the lack of space on campus for another field.

However, it is very puzzling that a university with one of the largest endowments in the United States cannot obtain land off campus for a softball field, especially considering that USC spent $25 million to acquire University Village in 1999 and spent a further $700 million to tear down the former University Village buildings and replace them with the USC Village of today.

USC has proven its ability to construct incredible outdoor arenas with Dedeaux Field. According to USC Athletics’s Website, the university has renovated Dedeaux several times, including a $4 million project that added a new clubhouse and players’ lounge. If USC can assemble fields such as Dedeaux, why can’t the university use its ingenuity to construct a magnificent softball field?

If USC does not want to buy new land, it has a world-renowned arena in its own backyard: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. According to its own website, the Coliseum has hosted practically everything from men’s basketball to NASCAR to the Summer Olympics to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Imagine a UCLA-USC matchup in the Coliseum to commemorate USC softball’s inaugural season. Young softball players from across California would come to celebrate the beginnings of a historic franchise. USC President Carol Folt would usher in a new era, speaking to scores of fans wearing blue or cardinal.

Softball’s emergence would open up the door for even more athletic opportunities. Men’s sports would need to be added to keep the university in line with Title IX. This gives the chance for teams such as men’s soccer and men’s lacrosse to be added as USC already has the facilities to house those programs.

Athletic director Mike Bohn will go down in history as the man who moved USC to a more profitable market in the Big Ten. But can he add another historic notch to his belt? Can he capitalize on a growing business?

Can he prove that the move to the Big Ten benefits sports outside of football and basketball?

Can he inaugurate the next wave of varsity sports?