Big Ten plans to rotate football title game, commissioner open to N.J.’s MetLife Stadium as host

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NJ.com 22 July, 2021 - 01:04pm 6 views

The league’s contract with Lucas Oil Stadium, which has hosted the first 10 Big Ten Championship Games in this city and will have the 11th in December, expires after this season. Warren said the league expects to open hosting duties up to other cities and venues inside the conference footprint moving forward. It will take the same approach with the men’s basketball tournament, which is booked through 2023.

“We’re going to sit down and figure out the best way to rotate it, probably take out a [request for proposal] for basketball and football,” Warren said. “I’m open to any location our fans will travel to and enjoy in our footprint, anywhere from Nebraska to New Jersey.”

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The Big Ten held the 2018 men’s basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden, but only after condensing its regular season to get into the arena a week before the Big East Tournament. That was an unpopular move among the conference’s coaches and is unlikely to happen again. But the Prudential Center in Newark would be a candidate to host in the future.

The conference basketball tournament has traditionally bounced back and forth between Indianapolis (the 2022 host) and Chicago (the 2023 host), save a two-year move East to Washington in 2017 and then the Garden the year after that.

Rutgers hosted the 2020 Big Ten wrestling tournament -- it was the last on-campus sporting event Warren, then weeks into the job, attended before the start of the coronavirus pandemic -- as well as several Olympic sport conference tournaments since joining the league.

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Kevin Warren Says He Has No Regrets About How Big Ten Handled COVID-19 in 2020: “I Would Make The Same Decisions That We Made”

Eleven Warriors 22 July, 2021 - 05:02pm

Kevin Warren’s press conference at Big Ten Media Days, which started with a 26-minute speech before any questions were taken from the media, nearly ended without him being asked if he would change any of the decisions he made last year.

Finally, with the last question of the press conference, Warren was asked if he had any regrets about how the Big Ten handled the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 football season.

The answer wasn’t the one that many Big Ten football fans probably wanted to hear.

“I don’t have any regrets,” Warren said Thursday. “Quite naturally, we all look back on our lives and other things that we wish we would have maybe done a little bit differently. But if I had the chance to do it all over last year, I would make the same decisions that we made. 

“Maybe the communication wasn’t as clean or as perfect as it could have been at times, and I think you’ve seen improvement with that … But all in all, as I look back, last year was a year of gratitude. It was a very, very complicated time in our lives … when you add it all up, I think the biggest thing that I learned was the importance of being grateful and also having a sense of grace, not only with ourselves but with others.”

Earlier in the press conference, Warren acknowledged that 2020 – when the Big Ten initially canceled its fall football season in August, then reversed course in September and started the season in late October, more than a month later than the ACC, Big 12 and SEC – was “not a perfect time for us in the conference.” 

That could be called a significant understatement, as the conference’s decision to shut down the season was met with intense backlash from fans, coaches, players and parents – many of whom also criticized Warren for a lack of communication about the conference’s decision. Yet Warren put a positive spin on how the year unfolded by saying it was “one of the best years of my life” and that it taught him how to be a better leader.

“This was a very complicated and complex time in our nation, in our world and in college athletics. It was complicated for all of us,” Warren said. “This was not a perfect time for us in the conference, but it was productive. We learned – I know I personally learned – many important lessons, and I feel that we grew stronger together as a conference.”

“If I had the chance to do it all over last year, I would make the same decisions that we made.”– Kevin Warren on the 2020 football season

Warren said many people have asked him what he learned last year, and “one of the things I learned is the importance of people, the importance of relationships, and what makes college football special is our people and our relationships.” 

“I can tell you right now that I’m a stronger person,” Warren said. “And I am grateful that I had the opportunity to go through what we did last year. And I’m also grateful that I had the belief system to hold true to my values and my promise to keep our student-athletes and their health and safety and wellness No. 1, which I believe that we did. So last year, as I look back over my life, last year will be the one of the years that I’ll look to that I continually grew as a person and that I’m grateful for to go through all the things that we went through.

“So I’m one of those people that always looks for the positives. But for last year, I wouldn’t have had the number of our meetings that I had with our athletic directors and our coaches and our chancellors and presidents and our fans. And so what it did, it allowed me to really understand the importance of relationships, the importance of communication but also to have gratitude for life and so I’m grateful for last year, I embrace it and I’m glad to be here today.”

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2021 Big Ten Football Media Days Hype Video

Big Ten Conference 22 July, 2021 - 05:02pm

Big Ten Media Days kicks off in Indianapolis

KMTV 3 News Now 22 July, 2021 - 05:02pm

Big Ten decentralizing decisions on COVID-19

ESPN 22 July, 2021 - 01:38pm

Commissioner Kevin Warren on Thursday said league presidents and chancellors last month agreed that each institution would determine its policies for dealing with COVID-19. Several Big Ten schools are requiring all students to be vaccinated before the start of the academic year, while others are not.

"Our schools are finalizing their proposed policies and procedures for the fall," Warren said at Big Ten football media days at Lucas Oil Stadium. "We'll get that information in early August, we'll combine it, and then we'll get together with our chancellors and presidents and other key constituents to make the determination as far as how we handle the fall. One of the things I did learn last year is that we're as methodical as possible, that we bring people together."

Other leagues such as the SEC are not planning to reschedule games for COVID-19 outbreaks and could have teams forfeit if they cannot compete on certain dates.

The Big Ten in 2020 initially canceled its fall football season, before bringing it back under very stringent COVID-19 protocols for players who test positive. Several key games were not played, including Ohio State-Michigan, and Ohio State advanced to the Big Ten championship despite playing only five regular-season games.

The Big Ten soon will announce the hiring of a chief medical officer for the season. Ohio State team physician Dr. Jim Borchers played an integral role in the Big Ten's return-to-play medical policies following the initial cancellation in 2020.

Warren, delivering his first media days speech as league commissioner after last year's event was canceled, described 2020 as a challenging year but one he's thankful for, as it helped him build and strengthen relationships in the conference. He said that while there were disagreements within the league, he still would have made decisions with the health of athletes at the forefront.

"If we put them at the epicenter of our decisions, we're going to be OK," Warren said. "And we did that last year at the Big Ten. Maybe the communication wasn't as clean and perfect as it could have been at times."

Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck, who was Warren's neighbor when Warren worked for the Minnesota Vikings, called the commissioner "an incredible communicator."

"He's got a huge heart, he's a really good person and he's our leader," Fleck told ESPN.

Asked about Texas and Oklahoma possibly looking to leave the Big 12 for the SEC, Warren said the Big Ten has had internal discussions about items such as realignment, noting that the league is in the information-gathering stage. The Big Ten in 2010 set off the last major round of realignment in college, which included adding Nebraska as a member.

Warren on Thursday also announced former Wisconsin coach and athletic director Barry Alvarez will be joining the Big Ten as a special adviser for football. Alvarez coached Wisconsin from 1990 to 2005, winning three league titles, and served as the school's athletic director from 2004 until retiring on June 30.

Warren has known Alvarez since Warren's time as a Notre Dame law student, when Alvarez served as Notre Dame's defensive coordinator.

"I trust Barry Alvarez implicitly," Warren said. "He means everything to this conference. We're so grateful he's agreed to join the conference office."

What if the Big Ten were to revisit expansion? Ten teams that make sense.

Buckeyes Wire 22 July, 2021 - 07:31am

We were all thrown a little aback yesterday when news broke that Texas and Oklahoma were reportedly kicking the tires around, potentially exploring the option of leaving the Big 12 and joining the SEC. It set off a flurry of conversation just in time for Big Ten media days to kick off.

But what does it all mean for the conference? It could mean nothing. Things are clearly changing in the collegiate landscape at breakneck speed. With the folding in of name, image, and likeness rules into the model, along with changes with transfer rules, there are clearly changes afoot. Not to mention, playoff expansion seems to be only a matter of time.

It all makes sense that some more conference realignment and expansion may at least be revisited, and here we are. I mean, it’s no secret that the balance of money and power in big-time college football — the sport that generated the most revenue by far has two main players — is aligned with the SEC and the Big Ten. Those two conferences make more money than any of the others, even the other three Power Five conferences. If you are positioning yourself for a dramatic shift, why not go to the land of consistent milk and honey?

Maybe nothing comes of this new chatter about conference musical chairs. Maybe that’s all it is, chatter. But if something more gets legs and the SEC gets another team or two, you better believe the Big Ten will have some similar conversations and look to position itself in the same market as sweet tea and grits.

Heck, even Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren seemed to leave the possibility open with some comments on Thursday. “We’re at an inflection point in college athletics,” Warren told reporters. “We’re always evaluating what’s in the best interest of the conference.”

So, it got us thinking. IF (emphasized) the Big Ten were to look at conference expansion and realignment once again, what teams would make sense? This is obviously just opinion, but based on what we’ve seen in the past with where the conference looked last time there was a reshuffling of power, we can throw out some options.

Here are ten teams that make sense to cozy up with some brats, cheese, and cold weather if the Big Ten were to look at expansion once again, in really no particular order.

Sep 21, 2019; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns fan poses with University of Texas logo on Bevo Boulevard before game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Ok. Look. I mean, if Texas is looking, why wouldn’t you go after the prettiest girl that’s potentially ready to break up with her current girlfriend? If the Longhorns are truly looking, then getting a school that generates a ton of revenue and has a slew of alumni makes a ton of sense. It’s basically Ohio State in burnt orange. It would be a slam dunk. It also gets the conference in a new, lucrative market, which is always a big thing when looking at expansion possibilities.

How far along are these conversations with the SEC? Nobody really knows, but geographically it does make a little more sense than the Big Ten. Also, would Texas and Ohio State play nice in the sandbox? The Longhorns have their own network and are on the shortlist of schools that have the reach and following of the Buckeye program. Would the flag-bearer of the Big Ten be on board with this move? It’s interesting to think about.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – DECEMBER 28: Oklahoma Sooners animal mascots Boomer and Sooner pulling Sooner Schooner Conestoga wagon on the field before the game against the LSU Tigers in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 28, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Similar to Texas, if Oklahoma is looking, then the Big Ten would like to have a word on line two. The Sooner program is one of the blue-bloods of the sport and would add an instant boost to the conference. If you can get both programs, great, if not, go for the hottest girl at the party’s friend who is almost just as attractive.

Again, if the Oklahoma brass is already having conversations with the SEC, then this thing may not even get off the ground. Also, if the Sooners and Longhorns are in lockstep and want to go somewhere together, a Texas move to the SEC could be a packaged deal. But who knows really?

Jan. 2, 2021; Glendale, AZ, USA; Detailed view of an Iowa State Cyclones helmet during the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Well, if the Big 12 is about to implode, why not take some of the scraps? Getting the Cyclones in the conference would add an instant rival for Iowa and the geographic footprint makes a lot of sense. Also, the program tends to be competitive in both revenue sports as of late, so that’s an added bonus.

It’s not exactly a splashy move. It doesn’t really turn more television sets (or streaming devices) on and doesn’t give you a historically great program in either football or basketball.

Oct 12, 2019; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers offensive lineman Briason Mays (68) over center during the first quarter against the Iowa State Cyclones at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

We might as well stay in the Big 12 since those teams could be scrambling if the conference’s two best programs run to greener pastures. West Virginia shares borders with both Ohio State and Penn State, so it could set up a natural rival for both. There’s not a lot of elite history to bank on with either revenue sport, but both sports are competitive enough with some memorable seasons from time to time.

It won’t exactly excite the Big Ten pocketbooks. The state of West Virginia is one of the poorest in the country and the fanbase is relatively small. It would feel like a move just to get another team that makes sense geographically and that’s about it.

Oct 10, 2020; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels mascot in the third quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

This might seem crazy, but if you believe some of the sourced information last time the Big Ten expanded, North Carolina was high on the list. It’s a research institution that fits the genetic makeup of the Big Ten academically, and it does get the conference into another market. The football program is a bit of a sleeping giant that’s beginning to awaken, and having the basketball pedigree of one of the best all-time programs of the sport would be a winning equation.

Culturally, it’s a little like forcing the issue. UNC is basketball first and foremost, and while that’s not a deal-breaker, giving North Carolina a seat at the Big Ten table could drive a wedge into decisions going forward with such a high-profile basketball school. Also, the ACC seems to be on solid footing and there are no guarantees Carolina would want to leave a league it is so historically tied to in its culture. There’s also the Duke thing to think about. Would Sonny go on to another career without Cher?

Nov 21, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Deslin Alexandre (5) and defensive lineman Rashad Weaver (17) and wide receiver Will Gipson (14) celebrate after defeating the Virginia Tech Hokies at Heinz Field. Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State has always been kind of on an island in the Big Ten with no natural rival. Adding Pittsburgh who is a rival for the Nittany Lions already, would be good for the league. Pitt also has a very underrated football tradition in a city and state that has football ingrained in its way of life. Also, geographically (again) it makes sense, especially if you bring in West Virginia along with the Panthers.

It would have to be about more than Penn State. Pitt doesn’t really add a whole lot to the Big Ten from a reach and revenue standpoint and its football glory days are in the rearview.

Cincinnati Bearcats defensive end Myjai Sanders (21) celebrates after making a tackle for loss in the third quarter during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against the Georgia Bulldogs,

There is one team in Ohio and it is clearly Ohio State and only Ohio State. No other program matters for football or basketball in the Big Ten. Adding Cincinnati would put another program in the football-crazed state of Ohio and add an in-state rival to the Buckeyes’ schedule annually. The football team is an up-and-coming one and basketball has a tradition that speaks for itself right smack dab in the Big Ten’s footprint.

Ohio State might try to block this one. It’s good to be king of the richest conference in America. Adding another in-state opponent to the conference might be seen as evening the playing field in recruiting a bit for those Ohio kids that want to play big-time college football. And, Cincinnati is not exactly the type of culture fit the Big Ten has looked for in the past. There’s also little natural revenue gain with the move.

Oct 15, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; South Florida Bulls fans wear Star Wars masks during the second half of a football game against the Connecticut Huskies at Raymond James Stadium USF won 48-27. Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

This is an underrated option that not many talk about. If the Big Ten wants to get into a new market, why not get an institution in population-heavy, football-crazed Florida? USF is also one of those research institutions that have a lot of the same values and culture as Big Ten schools do academically. The south is where it is when it comes to football talent as well, and getting a footprint there could be huge for the entire conference. You know, the whole SEC thing and all.

USF has little football or basketball tradition to speak of. That seems to be the biggest hurdle with this one. The school has only been around since 1956 and a part of FBS in football since 1997. The support and facilities would likely need an upgrade to get up to Big Ten standards. There is also a sterile campus feel to everything that might need to change.

Aug 29, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; UCF Knights mascot performs for the crowd prior to the game against the Florida A&M Rattlers at Spectrum Stadium. Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of the same that applies to USF does for UCF. If one looks appealing so does its rival in the “War on I-4” matchup. The I-4 corridor is a much sought-after ratings bonanza. Marrying the Orlando area and all it has to offer with the Big Ten’s reach and money could be a marriage made in heaven. Also, how about all that comes with events that could be held in central Florida for the conference. Sign me up.

Again, UCF is a newcomer as well, beginning play in FBS in 1996. It too would likely have to go through growing pains to upgrade facilities and all. There’s not much tradition to speak of, though the program is clearly one of the up-and-coming ones in college football. Also, the move might have to be a package deal with USF or bust. It’s unclear whether the Big Ten would want to bring two schools with little tradition on at the same time.

Dec 28, 2019; Orlando, Florida, USA; The Notre Dame Fighting Irish mascot celebrates the field goal against the Iowa State Cyclones during the first half at Camping World Stadium. Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

OK, I know, I know, we’ve been down this road before with a dead-end seemingly at every turn. But with all that’s changing with the landscape of football and even potentially an expanded playoff, this might be the time to get Notre Dame on board in the Big Ten. Clearly, this makes the most sense of any team out there when it comes to joining the conference from a reach, revenue, and culture standpoint. Could another shift in conference realignment finally leave the Irish with no option but to finally join the Big Ten?

Everything that has held it back before. Notre Dame believes its football program can stand on its own with television rights, revenue, and support. And even though that’s changed a wee-bit over the last twenty years, the Irish brass still won’t dance with the devil when it comes to all of the changes. It’s a proud institution and even prouder football program that has refused to jump headfirst into joining a conference and is likely still feeling that way today. There’s also the whole weird ACC dynamic at play and who knows where that could go.

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Big Ten commissioner isn't sold on College Football Playoff expansion model

USA TODAY 22 July, 2021 - 05:00am

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren told USA TODAY Sports he wants more feedback before supporting expanded College Football Playoff 12-team model.

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SportsPulse: Paul Myerberg breaks down how a 12-team College Football Playoff would work and the potential ramifications it would have throughout the college football landscape. USA TODAY

It may seem like a foregone conclusion that the College Football Playoff is going to expand from four teams to 12, but at least one power conference commissioner is still not all-in on the proposal made public last month.

Ahead of Big Ten media days in Indianapolis on Thursday and Friday, commissioner Kevin Warren told USA TODAY Sports that he wants to gather more feedback – including from current and former football players — before supporting the 12-team model that was recommended by a CFP subcommittee and advanced for further discussion by university presidents on the CFP’s board of directors last month.

Warren, whose first year as Big Ten commissioner was consumed by matters related to the pandemic, said he favored expansion of the playoff in the abstract. But he stopped well short of endorsing the 12-team proposal, which could theoretically extend the season to 16 or 17 games for teams playing in the national championship.

“I don’t know what the right number is,” Warren told USA TODAY Sports. “Any time you can provide student-athletes an expanded opportunity to win a national championship that’s beneficial, but this is a season and summer of being methodical. By our next (CFP) meeting in September I want to talk to all of our coaches, athletic directors, faculty reps, senior women administrators and current and former student-athletes and get a sense from them because we need to be really thoughtful in this area.

“How much is enough? Sometimes it’s perceived as more is better, but sometimes it’s not. I believe in expansion, but what is that right mixture of the number of games that’s proper? What impact has it had on their health and wellness not only on the following season but down the road in their future? What about from an academic standpoint? We need to make sure that although we’re focused on evaluating expansion, we have to do it in a really thoughtful manner. I’m pleased we have this summer. I’ve started those conversations and learned a lot. What does this do to our bowl partners from a relationship standpoint? What’s the right structure from a media standpoint? These things are all critically important.”

OPINION:  CFP expansion to 12 teams long overdue — and complicated

Though Warren is relatively new to the commissioner’s chair, his reluctance to publicly embrace the 12-team model could put him at odds for a second time with some of his more tenured peers – particularly SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who led the committee that came up with the proposal for a new playoff.

Those inter-conference rivalries played out last year during the COVID-19 crisis when the Big Ten decided on Aug. 11, 2020 to cancel the entire fall football season and try to play in the spring while the SEC, ACC and Big 12 held firm that they would try to play in the fall. Five weeks later, under significant pressure from outside political forces and from within, the Big Ten ultimately reversed its decision.

The pandemic has been a flashpoint for several monumental changes in college sports, culminating this summer in college athletes being able to earn money off their name, image and likeness for the first time, significant grumbling about the governance structure and general usefulness of the NCAA as a governing body and a playoff expansion proposal that could increase its value from $600 million to $2 billion annually according to some estimates.

Amid all of that, Warren has spent the summer traveling around the league and attempting to build closer connections on campus – things he couldn’t do when the pandemic hit roughly two months after he took the handoff from longtime Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. One of the new initiatives Warren is set to unveil is a parental advisory group, which he said is not in response to what happened last year when a group of parents protested the Big Ten’s initial decision to postpone the football season.

“I want to make sure I’m 100 percent in tune with their thoughts and needs and concerns, and we want to honor and salute them,” Warren said. “As the commissioner of this conference I want to make sure I’m fulfilling and meeting all the expectations not only of our on campus constituents, but from a parent standpoint. Our schools do a great job but from a conference standpoint we want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can. I’ve had many conversations with parents of our student-athletes and I’ve walked away from every one of them saying, ‘That’s an interesting angle.’ ”

Additionally, Warren agreed with NCAA president Mark Emmert, who said last week the time was right to discuss changes to the association’s governance structure and a reduced role for the NCAA in day-to-day regulatory matters.

But Warren also believes those “thoughtful conversations” are as necessary for playoff expansion, particularly when it comes to lengthening the season.

“From where I sit, we need to ask these questions,” Warren said. “It’s really important for me to hear what our coaches think, our athletic directors, our chancellors and presidents. I want to talk to student athletes who have played in the CFP. …

“These are not professional athletes, and we need to be sensitive to how many games. I don’t know what the right number is, but I’ve spent the last couple weeks talking to people and studying different subsets of data so when we do meet again I can provide information not just on an emotional basis but something that has tangible data associated with what my thought process is.”

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