Big Ten’s expansion future is a thriller, but Kevin Warren’s command of the situation is not

INDIANAPOLIS — Kevin Warren is a man usually pulled in a million instructions without delay, but on this quiet second on Wednesday night, he is simply a man who is performed.

The Big Ten commissioner has completed all of his media day obligations. He has schmoozed with numerous TV executives and bowl representatives. He has caught up with every of his soccer coaches. And he has put the relaxation of school sports activities on discover.

Warren has been utilizing a field-level suite as his dwelling base this week, tucked away from the coaches, gamers and reporters splayed out throughout the Lucas Oil Stadium turf. From this suite, he can peek and see what’s taking place — and he’ll come out to spend a couple of minutes with Michigan State coach Mel Tucker earlier than he heads again to East Lansing — but nobody can see him inside. Not simply, at the very least.

The door to the suite is virtually all the method closed. It’s ajar, but simply so — an apt metaphor as the dialog veers into the topic of realignment and convention expansion. Nearly a month has handed since the Big Ten added USC and UCLA, and every day has introduced recent knowledgeable (and uninformed) hypothesis of potential new additions to return. And they might come sometime, but it is not but clear when that sometime will come.

“The Big Ten is not in the energetic market,” Warren tells The Athletic. “I’ve obtained to ensure our 14 (members) are strong and powerful. We’ve obtained two which might be coming in who I need to over-deliver to.

“Then, I believe, it’s going to be obvious so far as if there are different pursuits that make sense for us. … Any different areas of expansion — I believe it could develop into evident.”

His tone is completely different from what it was a day prior, when he stood on a podium and mentioned the future could embody expansion that “shall be performed for the proper causes at the proper time” and can be “strategic.” He mentioned the Big Ten can be “aggressive.” That language doubled as a kind of warning shot all through the relaxation of school sports activities, advance discover that the Big Ten was not going to take a seat again now that it had its new LA colleges. One business supply famous that Warren could also be a little too free together with his language proper now, not realizing that his phrases carry additional weight on the heels of the coup he simply orchestrated.

And now everybody is targeted on who’s subsequent. Would the Big Ten add a true western wing — say, Oregon, Washington, Cal and Stanford? That may assist USC and UCLA with Olympic sport scheduling and the convention in its efforts to assert the late Saturday evening kickoff window in addition. It’s an concept that makes fairly a lot of logical and geographical sense, but solely the Big Ten management can know if it brings sufficient worth to execute.

Everyone is additionally targeted on when. This is the most attention-grabbing query, the cause there is a lot breathless protection of potential strikes and posturing. People appear to neglect one vital issue: The Big Ten began this. After a temporary but notable interval of relative calm, the Big Ten was the convention that obtained the realignment ball rolling once more at the finish of June. This convention is the aggressor this time. This convention is the one which made a transfer others should now react to. The Big Ten made a alternative so as to add USC and UCLA — and simply these two.

The Big Ten may have added extra colleges at the moment, if it needed. The league may have taken half of the Pac-12, or at the very least, Oregon and Washington, had it needed to. There was no bidding warfare with the SEC for USC and UCLA; it was simply the Big Ten swooping in below the cowl of darkness.

So why ought to there be urgency now? Why would the Big Ten have to react to — checks notes — the Big Ten‘s personal transfer so as to add USC and UCLA?

The solely cause to do it one thing is in the event you’re anxious you may lose a worthwhile prize by not shifting rapidly. But if Notre Dame believes it could retain its cherished independence for the time being, then the Irish aren’t going anyplace. If the ACC’s grant of rights settlement is as ironclad as these in the league imagine it to be, its prime packages could not be out there for a whereas. And if it is not clear whether or not the SEC desires to go throughout the nation to the West Coast, what’s the rush with the Pacific Northwest colleges? Or in the Bay Area?

Maybe there is not one. Perhaps there is no want for a knee-jerk response, particularly if the Big Ten’s boss has been evaluating potential additions since earlier than he took the job in 2019, as he mentioned this week. He has additionally had an expansion exploratory subcommittee in place for months. The league has the data it must act, but it is aware of it would not need to.

“The expertise of including one faculty is actually complicated; two is very complicated,” says Warren. “Because of that, I actually need to concentrate on all of our 14 colleges. Our membership is robust, and for our two new members of the family coming in in 2024, I need to present distinctive transitional service to them. You’ve obtained to be targeted on that.”

So how does he stability leaving the door open for potential new additions and avoiding the temptation so as to add members simply because prospects come calling? Establishing the worth to the Big Ten of the faculty that is calling. Evaluating its management and inner alignment. Determining if its tutorial profile matches the colleges that may be its friends on this convention. If such stars aligned as they did with USC and UCLA, Warren believes it could be apparent that the Big Ten would wish to make a transfer.

“These are first-world issues,” says Warren. “But if it occurred — whether or not it was a month or 4 years from now — we might determine it out.”

The Big Ten is now undoubtedly in a place of energy. Its commissioner had been much-maligned for a lot of the first two years of his tenure, significantly concerning his dealing with of the pandemic in the summer season of 2020 and final summer season’s ill-fated formation of an Alliance with the ACC and Pac-12 (which Warren says he does not remorse becoming a member of, even now). But now he has constructed up relationships and belief on his campuses, which immediately enabled him so as to add USC and UCLA whereas holding developments extraordinarily near the vest.

Now he is the toast of the convention, the man who delivered Los Angeles to the league and who helped guarantee the Big Ten will get to chart its personal course shifting ahead. No matter what school sports activities seems like in 5 or 10 years from now, the Big Ten may have a say in it.

“I wasn’t going to return into (this job) saying, ‘Oh, effectively, this is the method it has been,'” Warren says. “The organizations, the entities and the people who find themselves going to have the ability to thrive in a disruptive surroundings are those that embrace being snug in an uncomfortable situation. The organizations or conferences which might be going to return out of this in a actually good place are these which might be in a position to adapt and be nimble.”

In different phrases, the leagues greatest positioned for achievement are those who do the disrupting. And as a result of the Big Ten simply did some, it could afford to be affected person. This is a luxurious given to those that rework the panorama, the ones who set the agenda for everybody else. After the whole lot Warren has endured to get right here, he is earned it.

(Photo: Robert Goddin / USA Today)

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