There were obvious hot button topics for Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren heading into the Big Ten Football Media Days, including conference expansion, name, image and likeness (NIL), the future of the College Football Playoffs — topics that Warren has been pressed on nonstop. On Tuesday, he made his thoughts on them publicly known.
“Regarding (conference) expansion, I get asked every single day, ‘What’s next?’ ” Warren told reporters. “It may include future expansion, but it will be done for the right reasons at the right time. … We will not expand just to expand. It will be strategic, it will add additional value to our conference.”
With it, conferences and programs alike were sent scrambling to retain relevance and avoid finding themselves beneath the rubble in the aftermath of college football’s collapsing infrastructure.
To do so, entities must generate enough revenue in enough markets to be worth the investment of media, players and fans, something Warren believes the Big Ten is on the right track to accomplish:
“We will have a footprint in the three major media markets from New York to Los Angeles to Chicago, which will allow us to be even bolder when it comes to corporate partnership and activation.”
With these added partnerships and market expansion, the Big Ten expects to earn more money, and so do the individual programs. The Bruins and Trojans, following their official entrance to the conference in 2024, will reap those benefits as “full members” in revenue sharing immediately after joining.
There was also another type of expansion Warren addressed: the expansion of the College Football Playoff. It’s something that’s swirled around the world of college football for years now.
“I’m 100% supportive of College Football Playoff expansion,” Warren said. “… What is that right number? We’ll figure it out.”
While Warren backs the idea of expansion, it’s clear that even the commissioner’s insight into the minutiae of it all is far from clear.
But what Warren does seem to have tabs on is the advancement of NIL in college athletics.
“I’m a big proponent of name, image and likeness,” Warren said. “… That said, I am disappointed that we still have to operate with these various patchwork of laws from a state-level standpoint. We need federal legislation to help put in some guardrails to make it even more cleaner, to make sure these name, image and likeness is not used as a recruiting inducement.”
The rapid advancement of NIL with a lack of regulations to hedge against the inevitable repercussions of letting things run loose has caused obvious turmoil in college football. Warren’s comments give credence to the thought that people who have influence in college athletics also want to see a change — and sooner rather than later.
And truly, all of Warren’s comments addressed making, evaluating and planning for change.
“We are in a perpetual state of evaluating what’s next for college athletics, what’s next for the Big Ten Conference, what’s next for College Football Playoff, what’s next for the NCAA, what’s next for the Transformation Committee and what’s next for the future of how we operate in this environment called college athletics,” Warren said.
But it goes beyond evaluations. Warren and the Big Ten will have to execute in the constant competition between conferences to keep itself and all of its teams relevant. Answering ‘what’s next’ is just step one.