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

Kevin Warren is a man often pulled in a million directions at once, but in this quiet moment on Wednesday evening, he is just a man who is done.

The Big Ten commissioner has finished all of his media day obligations. He has schmoozed with countless TV executives and bowl representatives. He has caught up with each of his football coaches. And he has put the rest of college sports on notice.

Warren has been using a field-level suite as his home base this week, tucked away from the coaches, players and reporters splayed out across the Lucas Oil Stadium turf. From this suite, he can peek and see what’s happening — and he will pop out to spend a few minutes with Michigan State coach Mel Tucker before he heads back to East Lansing — but no one can see him inside. Not easily, at least.

The door to the suite is nearly all the way closed. It’s ajar, but just so — an apt metaphor as the conversation veers into the subject of realignment and conference expansion. Nearly a month has passed since the Big Ten added USC and UCLA, and each day has brought fresh informed (and uninformed) speculation of potential new additions to come. And they may come someday, but it’s not yet clear when that someday will come.

“The Big Ten is not in the active market,” Warren tells The Athletic. “I’ve got to make sure our 14 (members) are solid and strong. We’ve got two that are coming in who I want to over-deliver to.

“Then, I think, it’ll be apparent as far as if there’s other interests that makes sense for us. … Any other areas of expansion — I think it would become evident.”

His tone is different from what it was a day prior, when he stood on a podium and said the future may include expansion that “will be done for the right reasons at the right time” and would be “strategic.” He said the Big Ten would be “aggressive.” That language doubled as a sort of warning shot throughout the rest of college sports, advance notice that the Big Ten was not going to sit back now that it had its new L.A. schools. One industry source noted that Warren may be a little too loose with his language right now, not realizing that his words carry extra weight on the heels of the coup he just orchestrated.

And now everyone is focused on who’s next. Would the Big Ten add a true western wing — say, Oregon, Washington, Cal and Stanford? That could help USC and UCLA with Olympic sport scheduling and the conference in its efforts to claim the late Saturday night kickoff window to boot.

Author: Lucy Green