Big Ten holds expansion, USC, UCLA joining in 2024
July 9, 2022
Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said on Friday that the Big Ten Conference has no further expansion plans. However, schools interested in joining have approached the conference in the week following the announcement of the additions of USC and UCLA.
“I know the Big Ten has taken calls, and they inform us when they take calls just so we have a general idea,” Barta said. “But if I were predicting, I’m not predicting that we would be adding any more in the near future. We’ll see.”
The Big Ten voted to add USC and UCLA in 2024, making it a 16-team conference and the first to span from coast to coast. The move has generated rumors about further realignment.
Barta to support Notre Dame
The long-term viability of the Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast Conference, the path that the Big 12 will take moving forward, and potential destinations for Notre Dame are still unclear.
As Barta said, Big Ten executives discussed Notre Dame and other schools at a meeting last year after Texas and Oklahoma said they would join the Southeastern Conference by 2025.
According to Barta, the expansion was placed on hold until USC and UCLA submitted membership applications last month.
Last week, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith expressed hope that Notre Dame would be interested in joining the Big Ten. When Barta was asked if he would support Notre Dame entering the Big Ten, he said yes.
“I don’t anticipate that being a decision that I’ll be making this summer,” he said. “But again, I don’t have a crystal ball. But it’s not before us right now.”
Barta on USC, UCLA application
When notified that USC and UCLA were interested in joining the Big Ten, Barta said he was “a little bit surprised.” After nearly a week of phone calls and video conferencing, the two universities’ applications were granted on June 30.
“We were breaking down — does it make sense, does it meet the criteria, should we say yes?” Barta said. “And clearly, after those four or five days of discussions, we decided that the time was right, the schools were right, and so I’m excited about it because I do know what they bring to the table.”
The Big Ten will have a presence in the three main television markets of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, which is significant given that the conference is negotiating a new broadcast rights package beginning in 2023.
“I do know they’re academic research-focused institutions,” Barta said. “I know about their athletic history. I know they’re going to bring the TV market. So I’m very excited.”
According to Barta, the biggest issue among Iowa’s head coaches has been the logistics of a bigger conference, notably travel and scheduling. Everything, he noted, is still in the planning process, including travel partners for some sports.
“Whatever the solution is, one of the first things the ADs and the presidents said to the conference is we’ve got to figure out how to mitigate the travel challenge,” Barta said. “Because if you’re at Rutgers and you’re going to USC, or if you’re at UCLA and you’re going to Maryland, there’s going to have to be some sort of recognition of that when we get into travel.”