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INDIANAPOLIS — The sudden additions of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten Conference earlier this summer weren’t so sudden for commissioner Kevin Warren.
“The decision-making process — even before I accepted the job, even in my materials I prepared to accept the job — expansion was in there,” said Warren, who accepted his position in 2019.
Now, Warren is looking beyond just three years ahead. He is thinking about the impact of his decisions in the “next 30, 40, 50 years.”
“I want to make decisions that, when we look back 30 years from now, that people will say that the Big Ten Conference was ahead of the curve in making these decisions,” Warren said.
There are no shortage of choices Warren and/or the Big Ten university presidents will make over the next few years that could have a lasting impact.
When looking at a decadeslong impact, it’s hard to overlook the upcoming media rights contract. The Big Ten has been working on a contract that some experts anticipate will be worth more than $1 billion per year.
The additions of USC and UCLA — the two programs that dominate the No. 2 media market in the country — undoubtedly drive up the value of the rights significantly.
Warren said an announcement on a deal will come “sooner than later.”
“I'm incredibly pleased with where we are,” Warren said. “We have great opportunities. We're finalizing our deals.”
Warren didn’t rule out more expansion, but it’s clear the conference will be selective.
“We will not expand just to expand,” Warren said. “It will be strategic. It will add additional value to our conference.”
As for its implementation of the two already-approved additions — USC and UCLA — Warren said he has “built a Big Ten kind of readiness committee that we'll activate here to start working with USC and UCLA to get ideas as far as what we can do.”
Officiating changes with expanded conference
The Big Ten already has a plan in place for football officiating crews to adjust for when the Big Ten has 16 teams in 2024.
Bill Carollo, the Big Ten’s coordinator of football officials, is not waiting for 2024 to act. He already is “evaluating the West Coast guys.”
“I'm going to hire another crew on the West Coast next year to get them ready,” Carollo said. “I want an extra year to train them.”
The one or two games in California each week likely won’t be much more of an added inconvenience for officials.
They already come from about 40 different states, Carollo said, including California, to officiate Big Ten games. The conference also gives them a travel stipend.
“They will go to the extra expense to go all the way to Rutgers already because they want to be in the Big Ten,” Carollo said.
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