Big Ten commissioner talks expansion to open Media Days

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, July 27, 2022

NILES — As the Big Ten Conference gathered in Indianapolis for its 49th annual Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium Tuesday, there was a buzz in the air. That buzz resulted from the league announcing the addition of two tradition-rich schools into the fold last month.

The Big Ten announced that the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles would leave the PAC-12 and join the league starting in 2024.

That announcement sent shock waves through an ever-changing college football landscape that has seen its share of seismic shifts in conferences over the past two years.

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren, who kicked off the media days with his annual address about league matters, said that more schools could be joining the conference under the right situation and that he strongly favors expanding the playoffs.

“We are blessed now, especially with the addition of the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California, that we will have a footprint in the three major media markets from New York to Los Angeles to Chicago, which will allow us to be even bolder when it comes to corporate partnership and activation,” he said. “So, I’ll look forward to building a very successful and robust business in that area. The Big Ten Conference was also born out of a desire to transform and be transformative. We are currently in a landscape in college athletics that is changing on a daily basis.

“I get asked that every single day. It may include future expansion, but it will be done for the right reasons, at the right time, with our student-athlete’s academic and athletic empowerment at the center of any and all decisions that we make. We will not expand just to expand. It will be strategic; it will add additional value to our conference.”

Warren said that USC and UCLA will begin sharing revenue with the other Big Ten member schools immediately. That was not the case when the league added Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers.

The Big Ten is currently working on a new media rights deal, which reportedly would give the league more than $1 billion annually.

“So, the target that we’re looking for, we’re still working through that,” he said. “I don’t want to guess what that would be. I know we’ll reach that decision here pretty quickly.nAs I said, even regardless of the size of the deal, the thing that I’m most excited about during these negotiations have been the creativity that we’ll be able to deliver to our fans and to our student-athletes and to our families. When you think an opportunity to be able to deliver content, then I always talk about my focus every day is to make sure we deliver content to our fans from age 5 to 105 because people consume content differently.

“We have nearly 7 million alumni around the world. So, I’m very conscientious from the media partners’ standpoint, not to focus on the money, although we will be blessed financially, but how we can deliver content in a way that’s never been delivered in college athletics ever before, which is critically important from that standpoint. Yes, USC and UCLA will come in as full members. We think that’s important for various reasons. They bring a lot of value to our relationship. They bring a lot of panache to our relationship, and we look forward to welcoming them into the Big Ten family here in 2024. There’s a lot of work to be done between now and then.”

The other expansion that Warren talked about is the college football playoffs. He is all for adding more teams.

“I’m 100 percent supportive of College Football Playoff expansion,” Warren said. “I’m excited that we now will have some new members in the room who will have very creative ideas. Even in the Big Ten Conference, our new presidential representative will be Dr. Kristina Johnson, the president at the Ohio State University, who was a student-athlete herself at Stanford. She’s a businesswoman, has over a hundred patents from a business standpoint, incredible leader. So, to be able to get her ideas as far as what format is best, I’m looking forward to working with her. Then we have a new commissioner, Brett Yormark, in the Big 12 Conference, who’s replacing Bob Bowlsby. Brett is a marketing wizard, very innovative. So I’m excited. We have meetings coming up in September and October to talk about these issues. I’m 100 percent supportive for College Football Playoff expansion.

“What is that right number? We’ll figure it out. I’m confident we’ll get College Football Playoff expansion resolved. I feel very strongly that we need to open it up to have multiple media partners, that we need to have from the college football standpoint. We need to take a holistic view. We need to make sure we protect some of the critical bowl relationships.”

The Big Ten will kick off its 2022 season Aug. 27 with Northwestern hosting Nebraska and Illinois hosting Wyoming.