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SBJ's digital feeds will pause for the July 4 holiday. The Daily feed, Morning Buzz, Closing Bell, Global and Newsletters will resume Tuesday, July 5.

PUBLISHING NOTICE: The Closing Bell will not publish Friday. It will return on Tuesday after the July 4 holiday. 

Source: USC, UCLA planning to join Big Ten as soon as 2024....Busy, potentially chaotic NBA free agency period to tip off....Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, others in LIV threaten legal action

Source: USC, UCLA planning to join Big Ten

USC and UCLA are "planning to depart the Pac-12 for the Big Ten as early as 2024," according to a source, in a "historic move that would change the landscape of college sports." It is "not known whether the schools are joining the Big Ten in all sports, only in football, or just in football and men’s basketball." The move, which "isn’t official" yet, will have "massive consequences for the Pac-12, stripping it of the schools in its most important recruiting and media hub and the two teams -- USC football and UCLA basketball -- that serve as the face of the conference." The future of the conference is "suddenly in serious doubt" nearing the first anniversary of George Kliavkoff becoming Commissioner and with media-rights negotiations slated to start "later this year" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 6/30).

Some sources indicated that USC and UCLA's move to the Big Ten is "all but wrapped up," and there "could be an announcement today" (, 6/30).

Busy, potentially chaotic NBA free agency to tip off

NBA free agency begins today at 6:00pm ET, but "news has already been rolling in from around the league." Much of the "early buzz was coming out of New York." Some of the "biggest names" hitting the market include Zach LaVine, Jalen Brunson and Deandre Ayton. A host of young stars are "eligible for rookie contract extensions." Grizzlies G Ja Morant is "all but certain to agree on a max deal," but "what does the future hold" for Zion Williamson and the Pelicans? (, 6/30). Elsewhere, Kevin Durant has requested a trade from Nets in a "bombshell." Nets GM Sean Marks reportedly is "working with Durant and his agent Rich Kleiman on finding a trade destination" (N.Y. POST, 6/30).

This summer "may not have some of the biggest names available as we've seen in the past, but that doesn't mean things won't get truly chaotic" (, 6/30).

Poulter, Westwood, others in LIV threaten lawsuits

Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood are among a group of 16 LIV Golf players fined and banned from next week's Scottish Open who have "threatened the DP World Tour with legal actions unless their sanctions are rescinded by Friday." The punishments, which included monetary fines and bans from upcoming tournaments, "were handed down by the DP World Tour ... last Friday as they formally moved to punish all players who have signed up" for LIV Golf. There is a DP World Tour deadline by next Friday, July 8, that "means the rebels can't play until they have paid their fines, although LIV Golf's response was to offer financial support to its players to cover any penalties or legal costs they may incur." In an open letter the 16 players "claim that the DP World Tour is being hypocritical for banning them while allowing others to feature in events outside their tour, claiming the penalties levelled against them are 'grossly unfair and likely unlawful'" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/30).

NFL, Ice Cube-led group team for new initiative

The NFL is "partnering with Contract with Black America Institute, an economic inclusion-focused initiative" led by Ice Cube. The NFL has been "working to increase economic equity and partnerships with Black-owned businesses," and it will "focus on identifying league-wide opportunities in the financial, tech, and production sectors, with a concentration on increasing direct and indirect spending to national Black businesses to help close America’s racial and economic wealth gap." CWBA "worked with" NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Troy Vincent and "presented the idea to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell." Ice Cube said that his group "plans to pursue similar opportunities with other sports leagues and major companies" (AP, 6/30).

UFC deepens marketing ties with rapper Anuel AA

By Adam Stern

UFC is deepening its relationship with Latin musician Anuel AA in some unique ways, building on an initial activation last December that will now see the influencer named an official marketing partner. Anuel, a 29-year-old Puerto Rican rapper and singer, first partnered with the league for some cross-promotion around UFC 269. UFC gave exposure to Anuel’s company and album, while Anuel promoted UFC to his massive following, which includes 29 million accounts on Instagram. Now, they will create more opportunities for Anuel to be involved in UFC content/events, starting with a performance this weekend at UFC International Fight Week in Las Vegas, where UFC 276 will be held Saturday night. UFC VP/Global Partnerships Grant Norris-Jones set up the deal, terms of which were not disclosed

Anuel is the first Latin musician to perform as part of Int'l Fight Week. UFC will also launch co-branded merchandise including shirts, hoodies, hats and bandanas; and Anuel is giving UFC the rights to all his music to use during key moments of live events, including fighter walk-outs. Other aspects of the pact include digital/social content, UFC being part of his upcoming tour and Anuel’s logos and slogans being used within UFC PPV events for the rest of the year, including broadcast features and branding inside the Octagon.

Softball drives metrics for Athletes Unlimited

Athletes Unlimited’s AUX Softball property concluded this past weekend in San Diego after seeing significant growth in viewership, social media engagement and other metrics. Average viewership for the 18 AUX Softball games on ESPN networks marked a 74% increase over Season 2 of Athletes Unlimited Softball (as it was previous branded) last summer on Fox Sports. CBS Sports also carried games in '21 but was not rated. In addition, social media engagement for Athletes Unlimited during the period leading up to and including AUX Softball was up +268% year over year. Web traffic to jumped 783% over the same period (Athletes Unlimited).

NASCAR dignitaries, public remember Bruton Smith

Family, loved ones and admirers of Bruton Smith "paid their final respects" to the NASCAR HOFer today at Central Church of God in Charlotte. Smith died June 22 of natural causes at age 95. The service was open to the public, and "hundreds poured in to pay their respects to the racing icon." NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs before the service recalled sitting at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997 and thinking, ”How could someone dream of something like this? And then make it happen” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/30). Also speaking at the service were NASCAR Chair & CEO Jim France, and team owner Rick Hendrick. France: "He helped build successful businesses and our sport. Along the way, he helped a lot of families have better lives" (JOHNSON CITY PRESS, 6/30).

Adam Stern, SBJ

Speed Reads....

USA Gymnastics has signed GK Elite to be its official apparel partner for national team competition and training through '24. GK Elite, which will also be the NGB’s exclusive gymnastics apparel retailer at premier events, has been a partner of USAG since '89 (Chris Smith, SBJ).

Knoxville-based bike manufacturer LeMond Bicycles has hired former USOPC Chief of Sport Performance & NGB Services Rick Adams as its CEO. Adams, who was at the USOPC for nearly 12 years before departing earlier this year following internal restructuring, previously served as USA Weightlifting CEO and ECHL President & CEO (Chris Smith, SBJ).

Learfield will bring back its "College Football Saturday Night" live game broadcast for the '22 season, with Mike Golic Jr. as analyst and Sloane Martin handling play-by-play. The company will produce and distribute 13 weekly games and one bowl game, with the live audio airing on more than 120 radio stations, SiriusXM and The Varsity Network app (Learfield).

The Disc Golf Pro Tour partnered with The KingDome digital arena, bringing the last round of the tour’s LWS Open on July 10 to the Metaverse. The partnership includes future product development, such as customized spaces and digital wearables (Disc Golf Pro Tour).

Social media influencer Logan Paul has signed a deal with WWE, and sources said that this is a "multi-event deal," and it "will push into 2023" (, 6/30).

Twitter Me This....

Daily Download....

Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio breaks down how an appeal in the Deshaun Watson case could play out.

Daily Digit....

33 -- Number of New York Emmy Award nominations for YES. Notable examples on the talent side include Michael Kay, Ian Eagle and Ryan Ruocco for "Sports Play-by-Play;" Ian Joy, Frank Isola and Sarah Kustok for "Sports Analyst," Bob Lorenz for "Anchor -- Sports" and Michael Grady for "Reporter -- Live" (YES).