INDIANAPOLIS — Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said further expansion beyond USC and UCLA is possible if done for the right reasons, and the league will take a “bold” approach to major changes in collegiate athletics.
USC and UCLA, scheduled to join the Big Ten for the 2024 season, will immediately receive full league revenue shares, according to Warren, unlike the three most recent additions: Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers. The Big Ten is nearing a new media rights agreement that will reportedly bring in more than $1 billion annually, which Warren plans to announce “sooner than later.”
“I get asked every day, what’s next?” Warren said Tuesday to open the Big Ten football media days. “It may involve future expansion, but it will happen for the right reasons at the right time, with the academic and sporting empowerment of our student-athletes at the heart of all decisions we will make.
“We will not expand just to expand. It will be strategic; it will add value to our conference.”
Warren said he already scouted the expansion while interviewing for the Big Ten commissioner job in 2019 and studied many schools, including USC and UCLA. He recalled that Los Angeles had the largest group of Big Ten alumni outside of the Midwest.
Warren noted that the Big Ten will soon have a presence in the country’s three largest markets – New York, Los Angeles and Chicago – and will “provide content from dawn to dusk” with their next media rights deal. Fox will be the Big Ten’s lead media partner for the next deal, but the league has also been in talks with ESPN, CBS, NBC, Amazon and Apple.
“A lot of the work that we’ve done for each potential expansion, we did several years ago,” Warren said. “We’re always in an ongoing state of analyzing the suitability of institutions that came to the Big Ten conference.”
Warren repeatedly cited a bold and innovative approach to the many important issues facing collegiate athletics, including another realignment. He said the league “will not be bogged down in bureaucracy.”
“It’s important for all of us in business to recognize that we are in a time of change,” Warren said. “I think there are two types of people in the world: they see change as a problem, or they see change as an opportunity. And I’m one of those people who gets excited when changes happen. And then it’s really an opportunity for us to do a lot of things that people have thought of but maybe been a bit reluctant to do.
“So I accept changes.”
Warren reiterated his full support for an expanded College Football Playoff and his confidence that a new model would be achieved. The Big Ten was one of three leagues, along with the ACC and Pac-12, to vote against a 12-team proposal after months of discussions. Last fall, Warren made the case for proponents of power conferences getting automatic berths in an expanded system.
Earlier this month, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey indicated that he believes all future enhanced models should not include automatic qualifiers.
“I still feel strongly that we need to open it up to have multiple media partners,” Warren said. “We have to take a holistic view. We need to make sure we protect some of the critical bowl relationships. So as we work through all of this, be it an auto qualifier, whatever the case, I’m confident as we get these new people in the room, bring those issues to the table so we can find a solution.”
The Big Ten hope to continue to address name, image and likeness through a sporting advisory and advocacy committee. Warren said a possible revenue share is being discussed, but also the environment in which the conference competes will change with the additions of USC and UCLA.
“It’s so easy to talk about money and share money, but what does it really mean?” Warren said. “I just want to make sure I’m listening and learning and being able to have big ears and a small mouth to really understand what’s important to them.”