WCIA — The Big Ten west expansion is doubling. The conference officially added Washington and Oregon to the league Friday, a little more than a year after USC and UCLA joined. The Big Ten is now up to 18 members, stretching from coast-to-coast.

“The Big Ten Presidents and Chancellors are pleased to welcome the University of Oregon and the University of Washington to the Big Ten Conference,” Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and University of Illinois Chancellor Robert Jones said in a statement released by the league. “When considering the full spectrum of academic, athletic and research excellence, the alignment with our member institutions is extremely clear. We are excited to welcome them and look forward to collaborating and competing with them in the years ahead.”

Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman weighed in as well, issuing this statement Friday evening after the news broke:

“On behalf of the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Illinois, we are excited to welcome the University of Oregon and the University of Washington as the Big Ten Conference’s newest members. Like Illinois, Oregon and Washington are the flagship universities of their respective states. They are renowned academic institutions that have long and celebrated histories of excellence at the intersection of higher education and intercollegiate athletics. We are thrilled to have them as peers, colleagues, and competitors.

The addition of two schools located in or near the major population and business hubs of the Pacific Northwest, combined with our enlarged presence in Los Angeles and Southern California with last summer’s additions of UCLA and USC, solidifies the Big Ten’s West Coast footprint and opens doors for greater connections with our University’s alumni and donors, research and instructional colleagues, and business partners. In addition, it creates unique opportunities for our student-athletes to experience new parts of our country, to compete against the best and brightest from all across the nation, and to develop personal networks in new sectors and locations.

College athletics remains in a period of intense disruption. At a time when the Big Ten’s voice and influence must be at its strongest, maintaining a robust philosophical alignment among the conference’s growing membership has never been more needed. Oregon and Washington embody the Big Ten’s long-held values, and all of us at Illinois look forward to partnering with them on issues large and small in the years ahead. We thank our own chancellor, Dr. Robert Jones, for his leadership of the Big Ten’s governing board, along with Commissioner Tony Petitti and the Big Ten staff for their vision and execution. The future is bright!”