Big Ten Media Days 2022: Conference reorganization, scheduling formats between storylines to watch in Indianapolis

The talking season begins this week, as the Big Ten will host their Media Days event at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The event will see half of the league’s coaches speak Tuesday and the other half Wednesday in the off-season rite of passage.

While each of the league’s 14 coaches will speak, the main frontrunner will be Commissioner Kevin Warren. The conference has been making a lot of news in recent weeks with the additions of USC and UCLA, and this will be the first time Warren has had to stand in front of a large room of reporters to answer questions about it. Believe me, a lot will be asked of him.

In fact, everyone present will be asked many questions, so let’s take a look at the most pressing ones.

Add USC, UCLA

Odds are the two schools most discussed at Big Ten Media Days, and the two schools that haven’t officially joined the convention will be for another two seasons. USC and UCLA made the biggest waves of the offseason when we announced they would be leaving Pac-12 to join the Big Ten, a move many saw as a reaction to the SEC adding Oklahoma and Texas last year. It is also seen as just another domino set in a chain of events that will lead to the formation of two major leagues, with the Big Ten and SEC separating themselves from their college football brethren.

How exactly will this work? Will USC and UCLA bring all of their other sports to the Big Ten with them, and if so, what are the conference plans to schedule? Is it financially feasible for Olympic sports programs in each of California’s schools to consistently travel at least 1,500 miles to face conference opponents, or to require teams in existing Big Ten schools to make the same trips west?

Does any of that matter when calculating how much money USC and UCLA could add to a conference’s TV deal? This is another thing that Warren will likely have answers prepared for. The Big Ten reportedly had their new TV deal in place before the media days, but the addition of USC and UCLA changed the calculus. What does the future of media rights look like at the conference? Can we expect the Big Ten schools to start bringing in nearly $100 million a year in TV rights alone and can be shared with players as Suggested invitation group?

further expansion

Are USC and UCLA the end, or is the Big Ten planning to expand further? Their additions sparked more speculation about what the Big Ten and the SEC will do next. Will they continue to devour all the most prominent schools they can find, or will 16 schools be enough to satiate their appetites? Warren will be asked about all of these scenarios.

And what about Notre Dame? It was never a secret that the Big Ten would love having Notre Dame in the fold, and it’s still the sexiest school “on the market”. It may be the only school left that makes financial sense as an “added value” for each conference. Will the Big Ten only expand if Notre Dame is one of the additions, or will it return west to give USC and UCLA some companies to add to their late-night TV inventory?

There are schools in the West that would fit into the Big Ten family’s academic identity, but would they bring enough value to the league’s television deal to be added? Warren will not directly answer any of these questions, but he will be asked about them.

Talking section of the conference

With the Big Ten expanding to 16 teams and a new TV deal on the way, the conference will look different in many ways – including how matches are scheduled and the league is coordinated. The Big Ten already plays nine conference games, but can it be expanded to 10 if you bring in more TV money for that extra conference game? Or would going to eight and adding another match in no marquee conference make sense? You know, assuming other conferences still exist.

And what will happen to divisions now that conferences can hold championship matches without them? Do the Big Ten plan to keep East and West? There have long been complaints that the league is tilting too far east. Perhaps allowing the teams with the two best conference records to draw in the championship game regardless of their geographic location would benefit the conference.

This won’t be the most popular aspect of the Big Ten expansion, but it may be the only aspect the conference will be ready to answer this week.

Courtship of Jim Harbo in the NFL

Remember Jim Harbaugh’s interview with the Minnesota Vikings? It happened! There have been a lot of other things that have happened in the Big Ten since then that are easy to forget, but they definitely happened. If you need a refresher, here’s what:

After leading Michigan to the Big Ten title and the College Football Playoff berth, Harbaugh flew to Minneapolis To interview for a Minnesota Vikings job on National Signing Day. Yes, that’s right, as recruits in Michigan were dedicating their future to the school, Harbaugh almost committed his future to the Vikings.

And some wonder why you got off to a slow start in Michigan’s 2023 employment chapter. We may have forgotten, but the kids haven’t!

In any case, it would be the first time Harbaugh stood in front of a room full of people, many of whom would ask him the same questions about why he was interviewing the Vikings and whether he would consider NFL jobs again in the future.

Says a lot about Ohio State’s success that their 11-2 effort in 2021 with the Rose Bowl victory was disappointing. The regular season ended with a loss to rival Michigan, the team’s first loss to Wolverine since 2011 and Ryan Day’s first loss to the Big Ten.

It was also the first time Ohio State had failed to make it to College Football of the Day, which led to major changes, the biggest of which was the arrival of new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. Knowles comes to Ohio State from Oklahoma State, where he oversaw a stunning turnaround in defense that nearly led the Cowboys to the Big 12 title last year and helped them defeat rival Oklahoma for the first time since 2014.

There is no doubt that Ohio State will have one of the best offenses in the country again this season. Trio CJ Stroud, Jackson Smith-Nigegba and Trevon Henderson will make sure of that. But if Ohio State can get back into the college football game and compete for another national title, the difference will be in defense.

Penn State coach James Franklin got a 10-year contract extension last fall, which surprised few. With Penn State in the midst of a disappointing 7-6 year season after a 4-5 move in the 2020 season that was cut short due to COVID, it seemed like an odd time to hand such a big extension. Penn State took the step to stem potential interest from schools like LSU and USC, which were in the market for new coaches at the time and ended up poaching seated head coaches from the Power Five and CFP contenders Notre Dame and Oklahoma, respectively.

So Franklin is heading into the 2022 season with plenty of job security, but it’s undeniable that Penn State needs to freshen itself up and dust itself off. This program went 11-2 in 2019 and finished in the AP Top 10 three times in four seasons from 2016 to 2019. Neither of the last two ranked seasons has finished, and there is a chance that the 2022 season will not start in any of the major polls.

This is not what the State of Pennsylvania pays for Franklin, nor is it what Franklin expects from his program. Franklin will have a lot of questions about what went wrong and what his plans are to turn things around. In the Nittany Lions division alone, two programs (Michigan and Ohio State) made it to the playoff, and only last year (Michigan State) made it to the New Year’s Six Bowl program.

Scott Frost Hot Seat

Sometime this week, far from any stands or microphones, a member of the satirical media will say something along the lines of “I wasn’t expecting to see you here” to Scott Frost. They will both chuckle uncomfortably because it’s true. After going 3-9 and failing to make it to the bowl game for the fourth time in his four years in Nebraska, not many people thought Frost would get a responsible fifth season. He’s had, but now there’s a strong feeling that if the Huskers don’t show an immediate and noticeable improvement, Frost won’t be in the Big Ten Media Days of 2023. He may not make it to Senior Day in November.

Frost has made a lot of changes this season. He brought in Mark Whipple to manage the Nebraska offense after helping lead Pete to the ACC title last year, and he takes much of the credit for Kenny Beckett’s progression to the Heisman Finals. How far can Whipple turn around for a Nebraska crime not being able to find a consistent QB under Frost is likely to determine Frost’s fate.

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