Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren says it could continue to expand
Indianapolis – Just weeks after shaking up the college football landscape, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren is showing no signs of slowing down even more expansion.
At the end of June, it was announced USC and UCLA were leaving the Pac-12 and joining the Big Ten in 2024.
Warren mentioned both USC and UCLA will receive full revenue shares from the conference immediately, unlike when Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska joined the league.
The Big Ten is approaching a new media rights agreement, which will bring in more than $1 billion annually and that Warren hopes to announce "sooner than later."
Warren opened the Big Ten media days where the conference stands as it currently prepares to go from 14 programs to 16.
“I'm embracing change,” Warren said on Tuesday. “I'm going to be very aggressive. I've been that way my entire career, and I just want to make sure we build an environment because our student-athletes and our fans and our universities deserve that. I just want to make sure we're aggressive in how we build this. We've got to do it in the right way for the right reasons at the right time.
Expansion isn't a foreign concept for the third-year commissioner noting that he examined expansion even while interviewing for the Big Ten commissioner job in 2019 and researched many schools, including USC and UCLA.
With the recent expansion of the conference, it now has markets in three of the largest cities in the country — New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
While the new media rights agreement hasn't been announced yet, Fox will be the league's lead media partner, but it has also talked with ESPN, CBS, NBC, Amazon and Apple.
Having two teams from California join the Big Ten might create challenges with the schedule; Warren made it apparent he believes having a footprint all over the country is an advantage.
“I think the value of being across four time zones for multiple reasons is really important," Warren said. "We haven't finalized the financial impact, and ironically this probably will shock you: the numbers and finances associated with it are typically the last thing that I kind of consider and analyze. It's important for me from a business standpoint, but from a decision-making process standpoint, always look at all the other reasons why because if all the other reasons make sense, the finances will take care of themselves.”
Warren also repeated his support of expanding the college football playoffs and showed confidence that a new format could be agreed upon.
After months of discussing a new playoff format, the Big Ten, ACC and the Pac-12 rejected the creation of a 12-team playoff.
Earlier in July, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said he thinks any models of the playoffs shouldn't include automatic qualifiers, contrary to the belief of Warren, who has advocated for the champions of power five conferences to receive automatic berths in an expanded system.
“I still feel strongly that we need to open it up to have multiple media partners," Warren said. "We need to take a holistic view. We need to make sure we protect some of the critical bowl relationships. So as we work through all these, whether it's an automatic qualifier, whatever the case may be, I'm confident as we get these new individuals in the room, get these issues on the table, that we'll be able to reach some resolution.”
Another evolving aspect of college football has been the development of name, image and likeness and how it affects the game.
The conference will continue to address it through an athletic advisory and advocacy committee, but Warren mentioned that more regulations need to be put forth.
“I am disappointed that we still have to operate with these various patchwork laws from a state-level standpoint,” Warren said. “We need federal legislation to help put in some guardrails.”
He isn't the only commissioner claiming for regulation on NIL, as ACC commissioner Jim Phillips also said there need to be more rules for NIL during the conference's media day.
Warren noted potential revenue sharing with the student-athletes will be discussed, but the environment that the conference competes in will change with the USC and UCLA additions.
“It's so easy to talk about the money and share money, but what does that really mean?" Warren said. "I just want to make sure that I listen and learn and to be able to have big ears and a small mouth to truly understand what's important to them.”
As for what’s next for the conference, the answer isn’t apparent, but Warren made it clear that the next move will add tremendous value to the conference.
"Regarding expansion, I get asked every single day "What's next?" Warren said. "It may include future expansion, but it will be done for the right reasons at the right time with our student-athletes academic and athletic empowerment at the center of any and all decisions."
Alex Rocco is a rising junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com
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