Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren expects College Football Playoff to expand

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren talks College Football Playoff expansion

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

INDIANAPOLIS -- Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren kicked off Big Ten Media Days on Tuesday with a long address that included his viewpoint on several major issues unfolding within college athletics.

“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 (NCAA) Transformation Committee, and what’s next for the future of how we operate in this environment called college athletics,” Warren said.

“And I’m a big believer that the reason we are dealing with a lot of issues that we are dealing with today is because the business of college athletics has grown faster than the structure and the governance of college athletics.”

He said he “100 percent” supports expansion of the College Football Playoff, but he stopped short of predicting how many teams will make a future version of the postseason.

Explore5 questions for Big Ten Media Days

He did state support for keeping the bowls involved and his desire to have multiple media partners involved with a future iteration of the playoff, which is currently broadcast entirely by ESPN/ABC.

Warren said meetings will take place in September and October to discuss the future of the playoff, and Ohio State president Kristina Johnson will represent the Big Ten in those meetings as the conference’s presidential representative.

“She was a student-athlete herself at Stanford,” Warren said of Johnson. “She’s a business woman, has over 100 patents. An incredible leader. So to be able to get her ideas as far as what format is best, I’m looking forward to working with her.”

Here are four more notes from Warren’s speech:

1. Warren did not rule out future expansion of his conference.

“I get asked every single day what’s next? It may include future expansion, but it will be done for the right reasons at the right time with our student-athletes, academic and athletic empowerment at the center of any and all decisions that we will make regarding any further expansions.

“We will not expand just to expand. It will be strategic, it will add additional value to our conference, and it will provide a platform to even have our student-athletes be put on a larger platform so they can build their careers but also that they have an opportunity to grow and learn from an education and from an athletic standpoint.”

2. He did not reveal financial details of the conference’s next media rights deal.

“We’ve been working on those,” Warren said. “I’m incredibly pleased with where we are. We have great opportunities. We’re finalizing our deals, and I look forward to standing before you to make an announcement sometime here, sooner than later.

“So while the dollars are important to our member institutions, but it’s really about the platform to provide financial stability to our member institutions so we can provide excellent healthcare, mental health services, life skills programs, and even educational experiences to our student-athletes.”

He added that method of distribution could be more interesting to fans than the final dollar figure the conference nets.

“When you think an opportunity to be able to deliver content, then I always talk about my focus every day is to make sure we deliver content to our fans from age 5 to 105 because people consume content differently,” Warren said. “We have nearly 7 million alumni around the world, so I’m very conscientious from the media partners standpoint, not to focus on the money — although we will be blessed financially — but how we can deliver content in a way that’s never been delivered in college athletics ever before, which is critically important from that standpoint.”

3. The conference is forming a Student-Athlete Advisory and Advocacy Committee to maintain a dialogue with players in regards to changes in lifestyle, healthcare and perhaps even more direct revenue sharing.

“I want to be a great listener to figure out what is important to them,” Warren said. “It’s so easy to talk about money and share money, but what does that really mean? I want to make sure that I listen and learn to be able to have big ears and a small mouth to truly understand what’s important to them.”

4. He sees college athletics as being in a five-year window of major evolution.

“I’m embracing change,” Warren said. “I’m going to be very aggressive. I’ve been that way my entire career. And I just want to make sure we build an environment — because our student-athletes and our fans and our universities deserve that — I just want to make sure we’re aggressive how we build this. We’ve got to do it in the right way for the right reasons at the right time.”

He does not want to see the Big Ten eventually share the fate of Sears, a company that was once a dominant presence in retail but is a shell of its former self.

“I want to make sure that we not only make the right decisions that what’s right now for our student-athletes and for our games and our competitions and our academic opportunities and our fans, but 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.”

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