The Wolverine

Sept 2023

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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18 THE WOLVERINE ❱ SEPTEMBER 2023 BY JOHN BORTON L ong ago the Big Ten Conference went by the designation the Western Conference. It's about to be the Eastern, Western and Every- thing In Between Conference, with 10 left in the dust in favor of 18 — or more. The early August finalization of Wash- ington and Oregon into the conference gives the Big Ten four new members for 2024, the duo joining fellow former Pac- 12 members USC and UCLA in the same conference as Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. If that's not enough change for '24, it's also the year the College Football Playoff will expand to 12 par- ticipants. The times, they are a changin', and no- where more so than in the conference Michigan calls home — except perhaps the Pac-12, which has been utterly deci- mated. With 18 teams, the Big Ten could revisit its earlier decision to not break into divisions, and it will obviously have to make scheduling tweaks to the 2024 and 2025 slates to accommodate the newest newcomers. But with 18 teams and a reach from the Pacific Northwest and Los Angeles to Maryland and New Jersey, the Big Ten finds itself in no danger of dropping the "Big" from its name. "We are excited to welcome the Uni- versity of Oregon and the University of Washington to the Big Ten Conference," noted Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti in a statement Aug. 4. "We look forward to building long-lasting relationships with the universities, administrators and staff, student-athletes, coaches and fans. Both institutions feature a combination of academic and athletic excellence that will prove a great fit for our future." Michigan president Santa J. Ono and athletics director Warde Manuel issued a joint statement welcoming the Ducks and the Huskies. They also addressed the conference's most recent expansion move: "Over the course of the last year, fol- lowing the acceptance of UCLA and USC to the Big Ten Conference competition, administrators across our membership have engaged in thoughtful study and di- alog on wide-ranging logistical questions and considerations. Those efforts, aimed at ensuring a positive student-athlete ex- perience and fiscal stability, leave us well- THE MORE THE MERRIER The 'Big Ten' Hits 18, And Counting On Aug. 4, the Big Ten announced further expansion plans on the West Coast. The conference is adding Oregon and Washington in 2024 in addition to UCLA and USC. PHOTO COURTESY BIG TEN WHAT THEY'RE SAYING … Pat Forde, Sports Illustrated: "The move furthers the Big Ten's westward expansion and national reach but comes with a new layer of scheduling difficulty — especially if Oregon and Washington are fast-tracked to be playing football in the conference 13 months from now. Whether the conference will reassess its decision to disband its divisional alignment remains to be seen." Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY: "Why did the Big Ten do this now? Think of it like this: You're at the supermarket with a full cart on your way to the checkout line. You've hit all the items on your list and feel good about where things stand. But as you get in line, you see a deal that seems too good to be true — two half-priced bags of potato chips, and one of your favorite brands, too. Sure, the chips aren't your favorite flavor, and you already have two bags of your preferred chips in your cart. But how can you turn down such a great deal when you're clearly in the mood for chips? "For the Big Ten, adding Oregon and Washington is not just about continuing the westward expansion that began with last year's addition of UCLA and Southern California for the 2024 season. The Ducks and Huskies are expected to join the Big Ten and receive roughly half of the annual media-rights payout given to the rest of the conference, with small escalators every year until the Big Ten's current contracts with CBS, Fox and NBC conclude in 2030. That deal was and is too good to pass up." Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports: "While Fox, ESPN and CBS have worked to consolidate power and pick off name brands at a discount, the future they have set up should improve the number of quality games. TV doesn't care about Washington State … and now it doesn't have to care about Washington State. The Pac-12 programs it does care about — USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington — are headed for the Big Ten. "Go ahead and hate it. Go ahead and complain about it. The truth is, Oregon-Ohio State or Penn State-USC is going to produce audiences in the many millions. That's all this is."

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