Komish says Oregon State and Washington have “relevant interest” in joining the Big Ten

Adam RittenbergSenior writer at ESPNSeptember 7, 2023 at 01:29 PM ET3 minutes to read

ROSEMONT, Ill. — “Internal interest” by Oregon State and Washington in joining the Big Ten in the wake of Colorado’s departure from the Pac-12 to the Big 12 largely prompted the Big Ten to consider adding both schools last month, league commissioner Tony Pettitte said. He told ESPN.

The Big Ten was focused on merging new members USC and UCLA in 2024 and was not considering further expansion as of late July. But Colorado’s departure to the Big 12 on July 27, before Pac-12 schools even saw a proposal for streaming-based media rights, changed the landscape, Petitti said.

The Big Ten voted unanimously on August 4 to add Oregon and Washington.

“Oregon and Washington had real intent; they were working hard to make it an option for them,” Pettitti said in his first comprehensive comments about the expansion additions. “They really wanted to be in the Big Ten. We felt that throughout the whole process.”

Oregon and Washington will join the Big Ten in 2024 but will not get full media rights shares after that, which USC and UCLA will. Both are scheduled to make between $30 million and $35 million annually, according to sources, a share that will increase by $1 million during the Big Ten’s media contract with Fox, NBC and CBS, which runs through the 2029-30 sports season.

Current Big Ten members were “initially receptive” about adding Oregon and Washington but wanted to see how scheduling, financing and other issues would be resolved, Petitti said. The scheduling benefits for USC and UCLA of having two other members on the West Coast were factored into the Big Ten’s decision.

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“We all felt that whatever side we looked at, it made us better,” Petitti said. “It just becomes a process of trying to figure out how to do it. My job is to make sure the conference is as great in the future as it is today. There are opportunities to protect that and make sure we get better.”

The Big Ten is not looking to expand beyond 18 members at this time, Petitti said. The league is focusing on its football schedule for 2024 and 2025, which will maintain the principles of the “Flex Protect Plus” model announced in June. Oregon and Washington will play annually as the league’s 12th protected game, chief operating officer Kerry Kenney told ESPN, and other protected games are possible.

The Big Ten is “days, if not weeks” away from announcing local opponents for the 2024 schedule, after which they will finalize specific dates. The league will eliminate divisions after the 2023 season and the top two teams will play in the championship game.

Kenney said the Big Ten’s priorities in its schedule are to maximize opportunities to reach the expanded College Football Playoffs, have every team play every other team as much as possible, and balance geography with travel and competitive trends.

“We’re making sure there are no outliers in terms of the hardest schedule or easiest schedule for any of our teams, and we’re working on how to balance the competitive levels,” Kenny said. “You’re going to see a lot of what people seem to like with Flex Protect Plus. We’re going through different options of what that could look like to see how we balance not only the travel element in our Eastern and Central time zone schools but also iterate on how to get everyone playing in those four schools.” [West Coast] Schools.”

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Pettitti agreed with SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey that the CFP format should be evaluated after the substantial reorganization that occurred over the summer. The original 12-team format called for the six top-ranked conference champions and six overall berths.

“Those circumstances are different,” Petitti said. “Our job is to make sure everything created makes sense. I would say No. 1 for me [goal] It is access. “Something as big and important as the College Football Playoff, as big and powerful as the Big Ten, my focus is to give as many teams the opportunity in a given season, when they deserve it, to compete for a national championship.”

The CFP Management Committee will next meet on Sept. 25 at the Big Ten offices. Petitti said he doesn’t know a timeline for when the format will be finalized, but he said there is “a calendar that gives you a sense of when you have to make decisions because in the end, we’re going to play the games.”

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