Ohio State president Kristina M. Johnson and athletic director Gene Smith took part in a joint press conference early Friday morning to discuss the Big Ten’s decision to add USC and UCLA. The answered a number of questions about expansion and addressed a handful of other topics as well. Here are the highlights of everything that was said.
+ President Johnson: USC and UCLA share a lot in common with the Big Ten, so this is a good fit. California is home to 25,000 OSU alums, so they are excited about that. Also, USC and UCLA are both AAU institutions and they share the academic missions that OSU and the Big Ten have.
+ Smith: USC and UCLA formally submitted their applications Thursday morning. Kevin Warren then immediately called a conference call. This is not the first time schools have inquired about joining the Big Ten.
+ Will it just be USC and UCLA? Gene Smith: We’re in an unbelievable crazy time. He does not have a crystal ball so he can’t project it. “I don’t know. I really don’t.” The landscape of college sports will continue to change. The geography of this may seem odd, but the Big Ten already has another of Olympic sports that do a lot of competing in California and Washington.
+ Is this the end of the Pac 12 as we know it? President Johnson: “It’s a little early to speculate. I’d be surprised if this was the last move that’s made nationally.”
+ Is this a response to the SEC expanding? Gene Smith: “We weren’t doing it in response to the SEC. We were doing it for our needs.” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren has done a marvelous job of talking to the television partners. “It was about what did the Big Ten need?” Adding two institutions whose cultures “fit us” just made too much sense not to do it. The outcome aligns them more along with what the SEC has done, but that wasn’t why they did it.
+ Gene Smith on the Alliance between B1G, ACC, Pac 12: At the end of the day, the Big Ten needed to look at what is best for the 14 institutions. “Certainly, the Alliance still exist.” Conference expansion has been in place for years. This is not new. Eventually colleagues adjust and get over it.
+ The impact on media rights payouts? Gene Smith: It’s hard at this point in time to project the total impact. What they know is that now the B1G has the top three media markets in America with New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Hopefully by the end of the month, the tv packages will be completed. This will no question help the Big Ten’s television money. There is a large contingent of Big Ten alums in California.
+ Would Gene Smith entertain the notion of other Pac 12 schools joining? “I can’t really answer that question.” They have only been focused on USC and UCLA. “My head is really more about these two.”
+ The structure of the conference regarding divisions and such will still be determined, and not just football.
+ Why is this good for Ohio State? Gene Smith: This provides two other schools in unbelievable markets that “frankly can carry some weight.” Ohio State has carried a lot of the weight of the Big Ten and now there are two others who can help carry the weight. That’s not a disparagement to any other school, but it’s a reality.
+ Is this a step towards FBS creating its own governance? Gene Smith: This helps get it a little closer. “Hopefully it moves that needle even more.”
+ Does this affect the Rose Bowl? Gene Smith: Not likely.
+ How does this change the thought that schools need to be in a large conference and does Gene Smith expect Notre Dame to do something? “It’s hard to speculate. I love my alma mater except for when we play them. I’ve always felt they should be in a conference.” He hopes Notre Dame would consider the opportunity to join a conference and he hopes it’s the Big Ten.
+ Gene Smith: The Big Ten and SEC separated themselves from the other conferences a long time ago. Adding Oklahoma and Texas, and USC and UCLA just makes it more so. Maybe another large conference emerges from all of the aftermaths.
+ Kristina Johnson is comfortable with this move because of the people involved and the decisions makers on why these were positive additions.
+ Why is this move good for OSU Olympic athletes? President Johnson: Yes, the logistics will need to be worked out. But the opportunity to compete with other top programs is huge.
+ Does any part of this conflict with the educational aspect for college students? President Johnson: It’s been an issue since she was a college athlete. It’s part of the deal for all student athletes. Gene Smith: They already have a lot of teams at OSU that go out west. The Olympic sports won’t be doing as much mid-week stuff out west, so missing classes won’t be as prevalent as it will always be for basketball. Also, there’s plenty of time to study on the plane while traveling out west.
+ Why can’t this just be football? Gene Smith: USC and UCLA had to think about if this was just for football, the Pac 12 may not allow them to compete in any other sports.
+ Gene Smith: This is a great opportunity for television marketing and viewership. “It will be significant.”
+ President Johnson: “We understood how gamechanging this is,” when they voted. They did not take it lightly. It’s the best thing for the student-athletes and for the Big Ten.
+ Gene Smith: As an athletic director, they just listen while the presidents vote. As he saw that this was going to be a positive vote, he began thinking about his colleagues out in the Pac 12 who are not part of this deal. It got a little personal for him in that moment in time.
+ What’s been the reaction from the coaches? Gene Smith: He’s only talked to a few of them. He has a Zoom with them later today. He talked to Ryan Day and Day is very supportive of this and excited about it. As is Chris Holtmann. They both see the vision, but they’re more focused on what’s in front of them.
+ Gene Smith on the Big Ten: “We’re a place where schools want to be.”
+ Kristina Johnson: It’s very important that the Midwest continue to step up and be an innovative engine. Look at Intel coming into Columbus, for instance. This addition will strengthen the connections between Big Ten schools and the West Coast. This is the time for the Midwest to continue to build and educate students that are going to be wired for the future of the country.