Kevin Warren: Further Big Ten expansion will be 'for the right reasons at the right time'
Indianapolis — Just weeks after shaking up the college football landscape, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren is showing no signs of letting up when it comes to where things are headed and his conference’s role in that journey.
It was late June when it was announced that Southern Cal and UCLA were leaving the Pac-12 and joining the Big Ten in 2024, disrupting the makeup of college football and the five major conferences, much the same way the planned move from Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 to the SEC did last summer.
On Tuesday, as Warren kicked off Big Ten media days at Lucas Oil Stadium, he made it clear where the conference stands as it prepares to expand from 14 to 16 members in two years.
“I'm embracing change,” Warren said. “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 how we build this. We've got to do it in the right way for the right reasons at the right time.
“But we're going to look over this period, and we're in a stage probably of a five-year period of change.”
In other words, this is just the beginning.
Warren was talking primarily about expansion, which is at the top of the list as the Big Ten awaits the next move from Notre Dame, the biggest prize out there for not only the Big Ten, but the SEC, as well, not to mention the ACC.
Any move from the Fighting Irish will dictate what direction the Big Ten goes next. That move will likely have a ripple effect on the future of the Pac-12 and the Big 12 as those teams decide on their futures.
When it all gets sorted out is a guess at this point, but Warren said any move will be done thoughtfully.
“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 that we will make regarding any further expansions,” he said. “We will not expand just to expand. It will be strategic, it will add additional value to our conference, and it will provide a platform to even have our student-athletes be put on a larger platform so they can build their careers but also that they have an opportunity to grow and learn from an education and from an athletic standpoint.”
Expansion wasn’t the only thing Warren talked about on Tuesday. Here are some of the highlights:
►On playoff expansion: “I'm 100% 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.
“So as we work through all these, whether it's automatic qualifier, whatever the case may be, I'm confident as we get these new individuals in a room, get these issues on the table, that we'll be able to reach some resolution and again make sure we ask ourselves the right questions for the right reasons at the right time for our student-athletes and our fans. But I look forward to the day we can expand the College Football Playoff, and I'm confident that it will happen.”
►On media rights: “We’ve been working on those. I'm incredibly pleased with where we are. We have great opportunities. We're finalizing our deals, and I look forward to standing before you to make an announcement sometime here, sooner than later.
“I know we'll reach that decision here pretty quickly. … 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.”
►On name, image and likeness: “I'm a big proponent of name, image and likeness. I am so grateful that many of our student-athletes have been blessed with the ability to monetize their name, image and likeness. That said, I am disappointed that we still have to operate with these various patchwork of laws from a state-level standpoint. We need federal legislation to help put in some guardrails to make it even more cleaner, to make sure these name, image and likeness is not used as a recruiting inducement. So we have a lot of work to do even from a political standpoint.”
►On revenue sharing: “One of the reasons why we're forming our Student-Athlete Advisory and Advocacy Committee is just to be able to have discussions not only about money but about environment.
“I've already started some dialogue with our student-athletes. We're going to amplify that committee here quickly. I want to hear it from them. I want to be a great listener to figure out what is important to them. It's so easy to talk about money and share money, but what does that really mean? I want to make sure that I listen and learn to be able to have big ears and a small mouth to truly understand what's important to them.”