INDIANAPOLIS – Kevin Warren confidently walked across the stage at Lucas Oil Stadium on Tuesday and vigorously greeted those assembled for Big Ten media days with a "Good morning, good morning, good morning.''
With that jolt of verbal caffeine, Warren tackled the business at hand: defining the course for a conference that less than a month ago announced that it would be adding Southern California and UCLA to bring its membership to 16 teams beginning in the 2024-25 school year. It was a strong response to the Southeastern Conference a year earlier luring Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12.
"I will make it very clear in everything we say today, we do today, we do tomorrow and in the future that the Big Ten Conference will not languish in bureaucracy,'' said Warren, the former Vikings chief operating officer. "We will be innovative, we will be creative, we'll be bold, we'll be strong, we'll be powerful.''
The bold moves from the Big Ten might not be over. Though Warren didn't point to anything imminent, he did leave the door wide open for the Midwest-based conference to add to a membership that already will stretch from Piscataway, N.J., to Los Angeles.
"Regarding expansion, I get asked every single day: What's next?'' Warren said. "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,'' he added. "It will be strategic; it will add additional value to our conference.''
The additional value would in large part come from a new media rights contract for the conference. Speculation has pointed to each member school getting upward of $90 million to $100 million per year in a new package. Warren said the conference is finalizing new deals and will make an announcement "sooner than later.''
Warren added that USC and UCLA will come in as full members with full financial shares. "They bring a lot of value, a lot of panache to our relationship,'' Warren said.
The addition of USC and UCLA received positive reviews from Big Ten football coaches, including the Gophers' P.J. Fleck, who embraced the news.
"The first thing that came to my mind was, 'L.A.? Are you kidding me? It's perfect,' '' Fleck said. "The Big Ten is now represented from the West Coast to the East Coast. You look at the major media markets now, and that's incredibly positive. … We have a ton of living alumni out on the West Coast. Now that Big Ten footprint is stationed there for our alumni.''
Nebraska coach Scott Frost, whose program joined the Big Ten in 2011, sees plenty of positives to the moves.
"Being the most western team in the conference, it could open up some things for us,'' Frost said. "… I don't think any of us think that the changes are done yet.''
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, who helped the Wildcats earn a Rose Bowl berth following the 1995 season, doesn't want to see the Pasadena experience go away but acknowledged the shifting tides.
"The commissioner said it right. The word for right now in college football is change,'' Fitzgerald said. "And when that merry-go-round stops, I don't know, and I don't know what the destination is. It's exciting, it's scary, it's interesting.''
Warren also voiced support for an expanded College Football Playoff and federal legislation for name, image and likeness deals that have become prominent in college sports.
With conferences expanding, the transfer portal used extensively and NIL deals increasing, Fleck said coaches are learning on the fly.
"The dust hasn't even settled on all of this,'' he said. "There's three massive tidal waves that hit college football all at once. Usually, you have maybe one change every year or two years that is big. But this was three tidal waves that hit at one time. … You're in a world of coaches who want control so they can play, but you can't really plan for that. That makes it a little uneasy.''