are preparing for the college football season while gamblers and fans are bracing for another bombshell to go off.
As conference expansion talk continues, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren left hints of what will come. Warren's clues at further expansion could result in another bombshell that would shake the Pac-12. Regardless of what the Pac-12 may say, it has several schools that are desperate to escape.
The Big Ten is evaluating the worthiness of adding additional teams from the Pac-12 to expand its conference to at least 20 schools. While not confirming expansion activities with those specific schools, Warren said that the addition of any teams would come after the current media rights deal is finalized in August.
"We're not 'targeting,'" said Warren. “Like I said, my focus is on taking care of our 14 institutions."
However, Warren's state-of-the-union address at the Big Ten Media Days last week has sent a ripple of concern through college athletics that another bombshell could drop. The idea of adding Cal, Oregon, Stanford, and Washington would be to establish a Western power grid that would be academically appealing enough for Big Ten presidents to approve the further expansion. However, it's uncertain whether any of the Big Ten's future rightsholders would find financial value in such a move.
Financially, those four programs are not worth near the money now expected to be distributed to Big Ten schools with USC and UCLA in the fold. On the other hand, it would be a lifeline for the Pac-12's remaining top football brands.
Oregon has played for championships, Washington claims two titles, and Stanford is considered the next-best Pac-12 football. Stanford and Cal are also known for their widely successful athletic departments.
Everyone knows how desperate Oregon and Washington are for a Big Ten invite. And Cal getting left behind by UCLA has caught the attention of an angry California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Certainly, 20-team Big Ten would be the largest assemblage of football brands in college sports history.
Warren used variations of the words "bold" and “aggressive” several times at his press conference. Most importantly, Warren lobbed a subtle but powerful warning that the Big Ten may not be done.
"I get asked every single day, 'What's next?'" Warren said during his Big Ten address. "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."
Industry sources believe that Cal, Oregon, Stanford, and Washington would not bring requisite value as the 16 teams that will make up the league in 2024, with USC and UCLA in the fold. In turn, that fact could lead to the four programs taking substantially less revenue than existing members to have long-term security in the Big Ten.