Big Ten could expand beyond USC, UCLA additions, Commissioner Kevin Warren says, if it adds ‘extra value’ to conference

INDIANAPOLIS — Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said further expansion outside of USC and UCLA is possible, if done for the right reasons, and the league will take a “bold” approach to major changes in college athletics.

Warren said that USC and UCLA, who are due to join the Big Ten for the 2024 season, will take full revenue shares from the league immediately, unlike the three recent additions: Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers. The Big Ten is nearing a new media rights agreement, which will bring in more than $1 billion a year and which Warren hopes to announce “sooner rather than later.”

“I get asked every day, what next?” Warren said Tuesday to open the Big Ten Media Days of Football. “It may include expansion in the future, but it will be done for the right reasons, at the right time, with the academic and athletic empowerment of our student-athletes at the heart of any and all decisions we will make.

“We will not only expand to expand. It will be strategic and will add additional value to our conference.”

Warren said he studied expansion even while interviewing for a Big Ten commissioner job in 2019, and has attended several schools, including USC and UCLA. He noted that he learned that Los Angeles has the largest section of the Big Ten graduates outside 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 all the way from morning to night” with the following media rights agreement. Fox will be the Big Ten’s main media partner for the next agreement, but the university has also spoken with ESPN, CBS, NBC, Amazon and Apple.

“We’ve done a lot of work on any potential expansion, several years ago,” Warren said. “We are always in a constant state of analysis of the suitability of any organizations coming to the Big Ten Conference.”

Warren has repeatedly pointed out a bold and innovative approach to many of the major topics in college athletics, including reorganization. The university, he said, “will not weaken the bureaucracy.”

“It is important for all of us in business to realize 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 individuals who when change happens, I get excited about it. So it’s really an opportunity for us to do a lot of the things that people have thought about But maybe they were a little reticent to do it.

“So I embrace change.”

Warren reiterated his full support for the expansion of the college football field and his confidence that a new paradigm would be reached. The Big Ten was one of three leagues, along with the ACC and Pac-12, to vote against the 12-team proposal after months of discussions. Last fall, Warren advocated for power conference proponents to receive automatic berths in an expanded system.

Earlier this month, the SEC commissioner, Greg Sankey, indicated that he believed any future expanded forms should not include automatic qualifications.

“I still feel very 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 that we protect some critical pot relationships. So while we work through all of these, whether they qualify automatically, whatever the case may be, I’m confident we’ll get these new people in the room, put these The issues are on the table, so we can come up with some sort of solution.”

The Big Ten hopes to continue addressing the name, image and example through an advisory committee and sports advocacy. Warren said potential revenue sharing will be discussed, but also the environment in which the conference competes, which will change with the additions of USC and UCLA.

“It’s easy to talk about money and share money, but what does that 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 understand what’s really important to them.”

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