The future of the Big Ten expansion is a mystery, but Kevin Warren’s leadership of the situation is not

INDIANAPOLIS – Kevin Warren is a guy who often pulls a million directions at once, but in this quiet moment on Wednesday night, he’s just a guy over.

The Big Ten commissioner has ended all notification day commitments. He’s spoken with countless television executives and dish actors. He has met both football coaches. He has put the rest of college sports aware.

Warren used a field-wide wing as his base this week, away from the coaches, players and journalists who have swarmed across Lucas Oil Stadium. From this suite, he can peek and see what’s going on—and he’ll go out to spend a few minutes with him Michigan State Coach Mel Tucker before he returns to East Lansing – but no one can see him inside. Not easily at least.

The wing door is almost completely closed. It’s fishy, ​​but it is–a fitting metaphor as the conversation veers off to the topic of reorganizing and expanding the conference. It’s been nearly a month since Big Ten added USC And the University of CaliforniaAnd every day has brought about informed (and uninformed) speculation about upcoming potential new additions. And they may come one day, but it is not yet clear when that day will come.

“The Big Ten is not in the active market,” Warren says. the athlete. “I have to make sure our 14 (members) are solid and strong. We have two coming up and I want to over-deliver to them.”

“After that, I think it will be clear as far as if there are other interests that make sense for us. … any other areas for expansion – I think it will become clear.”

His tone is different from that of the day before, when he stood on the podium and said the future could include an expansion that “will be done for the right reasons at the right time” and will be “strategic”. He said the Big Ten would be “aggressive”. That language doubled as a bit of a warning throughout the rest of college sports, noting beforehand that the Big Ten wouldn’t be sitting now that they had new schools in Los Angeles. An industry source noted that Warren may be too lenient with his language at the moment, not realizing that his words carry extra weight in the wake of the coup he just orchestrated.

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And now everyone is focusing on Who is he next one. Will the Big Ten add a real western wing – say, OregonAnd the WashingtonCal and stanford? That could help USC and UCLA scheduling the Olympics and the conference in its efforts to claim a Saturday evening kick-off period to boot. It’s a logical and geographical idea, but only the leadership of the Big Ten can know if it brings enough value to implementation.

Everyone is also focused on when. This is the most interesting question, and the reason why there is so much scathing coverage of possible movements and situations. People seem to forget one important factor: The Big Ten started this one. After a brief but noticeable period of relative calm, it was the Big Ten conference that got the reorganization ball rolling again at the end of June. This conference is the aggressor this time. It was this conference that took a step that others must now respond to. The Big Ten made the choice to add USC and UCLA – and just those two.

The Big Ten could have added more schools back then, if they wanted to. The league could have taken half of the Pac-12, or at least, Oregon and Washington, had they wanted to. There was no bidding war with the Securities and Exchange Commission over the USC and UCLA; It was just the Big Ten swooping under cover of darkness.

So why is there an urgency now? Why the Big Ten should engage with – Checking Notes – The big tenThe special step for adding USC and UCLA?

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The only reason to do it Something If you are worried that you will lose a valuable prize by not moving quickly. but if Notre Dame She thinks she can keep her cherished independence for now, the Irish are not going anywhere. If the ACC’s rights granting agreement is as strict as those in the league believe, its best software may not be available for a while. And if it’s not clear if the SEC wants to travel cross-country to the West Coast, what’s the rush with Pacific Northwest schools? Or in the Gulf region?

Maybe there isn’t one. There’s probably no need for a quick reaction, especially if the Big Ten boss has been evaluating potential additions since before he took the job in 2019, he said this week. It also has an expansive exploratory subcommittee for months. The league has the information it needs to operate, but knows it doesn’t have to.

“The experience of adding one school is really complicated; two are very complicated,” Warren says. Because of that, I really want to focus on all fourteen of our schools. Our membership is strong, and for our new family members coming in 2024, I want to give them an exceptional transitional service. You have to focus on that.”

So how does he balance leaving the door open for potential new additions and avoiding the temptation to add members just because prospects come calling? Consolidating the value of the top ten in the school that is calling. Evaluate its leadership and internal harmony. Determine if its academic profile matches that of the schools that will be its peers at this conference. If these stars align with the USC and UCLA, Warren thinks it will be clear that the Big Ten will need to make a move.

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“These are first-world problems,” Warren says. “But if that happens – whether it’s a month or four years from now – we’ll figure it out.”

The Big Ten is now undoubtedly in a position of strength. Its commissioner had been greatly abused during his first two years in office, particularly in relation to the handling of the pandemic in the summer of 2020 and the ill-fated formation last summer of an alliance with the ACC and Pac-12 (which Warren). He says he doesn’t regret joining, yet.) But now he has built relationships and trusts on his campus, enabling him directly to add USC and UCLA while keeping developments very close to the jacket.

Now he’s the toast of the conference, the man who brought L.A. into the league and who helped ensure the Big Ten charted its own course moving forward. No matter what college sports look like five or 10 years from now, the Big Ten will have a say in it.

“I didn’t want to go into[this job]and say, ‘Oh, well, that’s the way it was,'” Warren says. convenient. The organizations or conferences that will come out of this in a really good position are the ones that are adaptable and smart.”

In other words, the leagues that are best positioned to succeed are the ones that are disrupting. And because the Big Ten did quite a bit, they could be patient. This is a luxury afforded to those who change the landscape, those who set the agenda for everyone else. After everything Warren went through to get here, he got it.

(Photo: Robert Godin/USA Today)

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