INDIANAPOLIS – Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren told Action Network that there are “a handful of schools” besides Notre Dame that will add value as Big Ten members in the future.
The schools the Big Ten teaches, sources told Action Network, are Notre Dame, Oregon, Washington, Stanford, Cal, Miami and Florida. Warren has not commented on specific schools as potential members.
“When I say value added: Value is important, but I only look at relevance,” Warren told Action Network Tuesday at Big Ten Media Days. “The right thing to do is there has to be an academic, there has to be an athlete. All of these things really matter. There are a few schools that are likely to add value to us, but I’m focused so hard right now that we’re welcoming USC and UCLA to our conference in 2024 with arms… open.”
Warren said he was proud that USC and UCLA are members of the AAU (Association of American University), but he also said that being a member of the AAU is not a requirement for a potential future member.
“Literally every one of the non-SEC Power Five schools got in touch with the Big Ten,” a source said of schools wishing to join the conference. University presidents, athletic directors, chief administrators, you name it.
As for the schedule and how many teams the Big Ten will add, it’s unknown.
“It could take anywhere from two months to two years,” another source said. “There can be an odd number, and there can’t be any set number of teams.”
In his opening statement to the media on Tuesday, Warren wasn’t shy about Big Ten’s future plans.
“In terms of expansion, he asks me every day, ‘What next?'” Warren said. It may include expansion in the future, but it will be done for the right reasons at the right time with our student-athletes, and academic and athletic empowerment at the heart of any and all decisions we will make on any further expansions.
We will not just expand to expand. It will be strategic. It will add additional value to our conference, and it will provide a platform for our student-athletes to be placed on a larger platform so that they can build their careers but also have an opportunity to grow and learn from education and from an athletic point of view.
“Where does expansion go? I don’t know. There are two types of people in the world: they view change as a problem, or they view change as an opportunity. And I am one of those individuals who when change happens, I get excited about it.”
Since the announcement of the USC and UCLA to the Big Ten on June 30, Warren said he has not spoken with Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkov. Warren said his office is scheduling a call for him with Kliavkoff after Friday’s PAC-12 media event.
The announced “historic alliance” between the Big Ten, Pac-12 and the ACC didn’t last until one year before the Big Ten raided Pac-12 for the USC and UCLA.
“We’re in a five-year transition period,” Warren said. “Just because these are some moves on the front end of the shift, we won’t really know until we come to a conclusion. I think over the next couple of years it will stabilize — conference hopping. How many are there? How many are not? The structure will become clear.”
The sources said that if the Big Ten adds more Pac-12 teams, the Big 12 could follow Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah from the Pac-12. Warren said he has developed a close relationship with new Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark.
Ironically, both the Warren and Yormark leagues can take teams from the Pac-12. So, if the Pac-12 is no longer a strong league, a major question immediately arises: Could a future Rose Bowl turn into a Big Ten-Big 12 game?
As for Warren’s “five-year transformation period,” it’s items related to how many conferences of power will remain.
“That’s a question that hasn’t been looked at yet,” Warren said. “Think of how much more we know today than we knew a year ago. Then think a year from now. It will become as crystal clear as is appropriate. The market will determine where things should settle.”
One of the Big Ten coaches has an idea of how to sort these things out.
“We know how this will end,” the coach said. “Twenty or more teams in the Big Ten, 20 or more teams in SEC. One televised on Fox. One on ESPN. Just like the NFL. And then you have a Big Ten-SEC game in a college Super Bowl.
“Then the six-win teams would play in the Tampa bowl, and the seven-win teams would play in Orlando. That’s where we’re headed.”
Regarding the future of College Football Playoff, Warren said he’s 100% in favor of comma expansion but favors automatic bids for the Power Five conference champions.
“There should be some difference for conferences winning their conference championships,” Warren said. “There has to be a reward for winning the conference. Our student-athletes focus a lot on the season, and I think that’s important. They should get some credit for that. It makes the end of the regular season really important.”
“I never want to get to the point where a committee (all teams) chose who would go to the college football game,” Warren added with an extended playoff, whether it’s eight, 12, or 16 teams.
Last week, Securities and Exchange Commission Commissioner Greg Sankey said the SEC “would be fine without AQs (auto-qualifiers)” regardless of the size of the playoff. The Securities and Exchange Commission has long said it wants the highest-ranked teams in a playoff and does not support automatic playoffs for conference champions.
When I spoke with Warren, I asked him if he had noticed the inaccurate footage taken by SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey in the Big Ten last week. Sankey noted that members of the Securities and Exchange Commission are in “contiguous countries” and “there is no sense of urgency in our league. No panic in reaction to other people’s decisions. We know who we are. We are confident in our collective strength.”
Warren said he took note of Sankey’s comments.
“I did,” Warren said with a laugh. “Greg and I were well trained by (former SEC commissioner) Mike Slive (hired Slive Warren from Notre Dame Law School). I know Greg’s head is fake.”
One of the Big Ten athletic directors echoed Warren’s philosophy regarding the future of the Big Ten.
“This is a game of chess, not checkers,” said Big Ten’s athletic director. “We have to do better for us. The old days of college athletics are gone. Checkers are over. The old days of college athletics are gone. This is business.
I mentioned to Warren that the Big Ten is clearly no longer messing around. The league will do better for the Big Ten.
“We don’t mess around,” Warren said. “This is how we got into this situation. I don’t want to be Sears and Roebuck.”