Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren’s Big Ten Media Days press conference kicked off Thursday with a speech with three main points: respect the tradition of the conference, protect the conference and transform the conference.
“We are a powerful force in college athletics, we are a powerful force in college football,” Warren said.
Warren took the podium at the two-day event in Indianapolis to touch on topics like Name, Image and Likeness, playoff expansion and health and safety issues.
To advance the Big Ten tradition, Warren announced former Wisconsin head coach and athletic director Barry Alvarez joined the conference as a special advisor for football to work on potential playoff expansion, health and safety issues, scheduling issues and bowl partnerships.
“I have known him since the days that I was a law student at the University of Notre Dame and he was the defensive coordinator,” Warren said. “He means everything to this conference and we're so grateful that's agreed to join us at the conference office.”
Warren said the Big Ten played 1843 of 2000 scheduled games last season, a 92% completion rate. IU football missed two games last season, both scheduled against Purdue.
Warren added that the Big Ten has a decentralized system for COVID-19 policy, deferring to the schools instead of creating one Big Ten procedure. Warren said the plans have not been set yet and no decision has been made whether games canceled due to safety protocols will be forfeited.
“We'll get that information in early August,” Warren said. “We'll combine it, and then we'll get together with our chancellors and presidents and other key constituents to make the determination as far as how we handle the fall.”
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said he doesn’t have an opinion regarding forfeitures during the 2021 season. Nebraska, who led the push to play Big Ten football in 2020, had its game against Wisconsin canceled due to COVID-19 issues within the Badgers’ organization.
The Big Ten also announced the creation of the George and Viola Taliaferro Fellowship in honor of the former IU running back, which will allow groups who have not historically had access to collegiate conference office leadership positions with an opportunity to work in the Office of the Commissioner.
Warren noted the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion multiple times, mentioning hires of women and people of color in roles across the Big Ten, like new IU president Pamela Whitten and new IU basketball coach Mike Woodson.
When talking about transforming the Big Ten, Warren focused on NIL legislation, noting that it was still necessary for federal legislation to be adopted.
After opening up for questions, Warren was asked about reports that Texas and Oklahoma have asked to join the SEC.
Warren gave no indication if the Big Ten was open to expansion itself, instead choosing to note that college football is at an inflection point amid NIL legislation and College Football Playoff expansion.
“It will be interesting to see that story, how that evolves and where it lands," Warren said.
Warren wrapped his speech by looking back at his time as commissioner and how he handled his first 18 months amid the pandemic.
“I don't have any regrets,” Warren said. “I mean, quite naturally, we all look back over our lives and there are things we wish we would have maybe done a little bit differently, but if I had the chance to do it all over last year, I would make the same decisions that we made.”
Big Ten Media Days will continue Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. IU head coach Tom Allen, junior quarterback Michael Penix, Jr., senior wide receiver Ty Fryfogle and senior linebacker Micah McFadden will be in attendance.