Big Ten open to more expansion after adding USC, UCLA

It’s gone from 10 schools to 11, 12, 14, and soon 16 with the additions of UCLA and USC, while all somehow remaining the Big Ten.

You could call it the Bigger Ten, while understanding could swell again at any time.

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren on Tuesday reflected on what it would have been like to sit among the seven college presidents who met at a Chicago hotel called the Palmer House in 1895 to discuss the formation of the Big Ten .

It couldn’t have been crazier.

Warren pointed out during Big Ten football media days at Lucas Oil Stadium that a conference about to stretch coast-to-coast may not have fully grown. The Bruins and Trojans are slated to come on board in August 2024, but other attractive prizes could be up for grabs in the years to come.

Notre Dame? Stanford? Oregon? North Carolina? Virginia? The list of possibilities swirls like clouds in a Midwestern thunderstorm.

“I get asked every day, ‘What’s next?’ ‘ Warren said while standing on a platform perched above artificial turf. “It may involve future expansion, but it will happen for the right reasons at the right time, with our student-athletes, academic and sporting empowerment at the heart of any decisions we will make regarding further expansion. We will not expand just to expand.”

In a win for the athletic department coffers of their latest additions, Warren said that unlike predecessors Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers, UCLA and USC would receive full revenue shares upon their arrival in the Big Ten. This represents a massive cash injection for any school, as the Big Ten’s new media rights deal is expected to be in excess of $1 billion – a deal Warren said would be announced “sooner than later”.

“They bring a lot of value to our relationship, a lot of panache to our relationship,” Warren said of the Los Angeles schools, likely referring to their location in the country’s second largest media market and the Hollywood glamor that comes with it.

Warren made a stumbling block during his lengthy praise of schools when he called director Steven Spielberg an alumnus of USC, despite being a huge benefactor of the university’s film school, but actually attending Long Beach State. But many Big Ten alumni live in Los Angeles, and Warren notes that it’s the largest base of Big Ten alumni outside of the Midwest.

As he pondered the Big Ten’s expansion opportunities before taking his current job in 2019, Warren said that USC and UCLA were among the schools he saw as attractive prospects, citing their strong academic and athletic profiles as well as a long list of prominent alumni.

The new Big Ten configuration will give the conference a presence in each of the country’s three largest media markets, Warren pointed out, while also offering programming options that span “morning ’til night.” Warren alluded to the West Coast exclusive late-night broadcast window as historically positive, but didn’t say if he would use it for UCLA and USC home games.

“I look forward to building a brand that will be solid and strong from Los Angeles to New Jersey and everywhere in between,” said Warren.

UCLA cornerback Cameron Johnson smashes a pass from USC wide receiver Tahj Washington.

UCLA cornerback Cameron Johnson bats a pass at USC wide receiver Tahj Washington during the second quarter on November 20, 2021 at the Coliseum. Both schools will become full members of the Big Ten on August 2, 2024.

(Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)

Several Big Ten coaches dismissed travel concerns raised over a conference requiring five-hour flights. Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald pointed out that his team opens its season against Nebraska in Dublin. Nebraska coach Scott Frost said as the westernmost team in the Big Ten, the impact will be less.

“For us in the middle of the country, there’s not much of a difference between New Jersey and California, to be honest,” Frost said. “So another 45 minutes or an hour on the plane doesn’t matter, we’re just happy to have them in the league.”

Although the Big Ten have been an integral part of the College Football Playoffs — participating in six of its eight years — Warren said he fully supports expanding the four-team event while alongside ESPN, which had a stranglehold on coverage, more media partners embraced . The Big Ten’s partnership with Fox is believed to be one of the main reasons they didn’t vote for an extended playoff earlier this year.

As for the bleak future of the Rose Bowl given the likelihood of a significantly weakened Pac-12, Fitzgerald was among those who expressed hope that the Big Ten’s connection to the vaunted game could be salvaged.

“There’s nothing quite like coming out of the tunnel at the Rose Bowl on January 1st — or whatever day we play — and seeing the San Gabriels,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s something very special about that and I really hope we don’t lose that.

“But I think the commissioner got it right — the word for college football now is ‘change,’ and when this merry-go-round will stop I don’t know, and I don’t know what the goal is. It’s exciting, it’s scary, it’s interesting.”

Warren repeatedly emphasized the Big Ten’s forward-thinking mentality, using words like “brave,” “creative,” and “aggressive.” He shared how he drove to Chicago while attending law school at Notre Dame, saw the iconic Sears Tower, and cherished the times when he could order birthday gifts from the Sears and Roebuck catalog, which no longer exists.

“I don’t want to be Sears and Roebuck,” Warren said. “And I want to make sure that not only are we making the right decisions about what’s right now for our student athletes and for our games and our competitions and our academic opportunities and our fans, but I want to make decisions when we look to 30 years from now.” people say the Big Ten Conference was ahead of its time.”

As Warren spoke, a slogan shone in giant letters on a video board above him: “Big Life. big stage. Big Ten.”

It’s big and getting bigger without saying how big it might eventually become. Big Ten open to more expansion after adding USC, UCLA

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