New Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren spent a couple days on the IU campus as part of his tour of all 14 Big Ten universities. Warren officially became the Big Ten Commissioner on January 2nd, replacing Jim Delany, who served in that role since 1989.
Warren took questions from the media upon the conclusion of his Indiana visit. He discussed a number of topics including Big Ten football and basketball scheduling, football conference alignment, and basketball officiating.
Below are Warren’s comments on those topics.
ON BIG TEN BASKETBALL STYLE OF PLAY
Warren: I’m really pleased with our style of play. The numbers may have changed with the latest AP rankings, but having five teams in the top 25, not only on the men’s standpoint but we also have some great women’s teams. I think basically our demanding style, our physical style that people have called other things like tackle basketball or hockey basketball, I think in years like this it is going to pay dividends. I think that is one of the reasons why our teams have done well. We’ve had some big wins at home, we’ve had some big wins on the road, we’re physical, and if you look at entering into this tournament right now, how many weeks have we had a different number one team? It’s all over the board, and these are the kind of years that the tough, demanding, nature of Big Ten basketball is going to pay dividends not only in our conference tournament, but also as we get into March Madness, and hopefully to a Final Four, and hopefully to a national championship standpoint.
So I am looking forward to it. One good thing that I’m glad to see is that even with the three-point line extended, is that we have some really good shooters in our conference. There are a couple teams in our conference that if they can stay healthy, and continually play hard and play good defense – because I think that is one thing that we’ve always done in this conference, and shoot the ball well, we have some teams that can go really far and it’s going to be interesting. I think far and away right now, and it depends on how these next weeks end up, we could end up having a very large number of our teams in the tournament. So, I’m confident, I like the style of our play, I think it’s physical, they play defense, they play hard, they pass, and we shoot the ball well. We have excellent coaches and excellent players. So I think this year is going to be a really exciting year and I think our teams are going to do really well, especially here down the stretch because they are so physically, emotionally and mentally strong. I think this is going to be a great year in terms of how we fare in the tournament.
ON FOOTBALL DIVISION ALIGNMENT
Warren: One of the things that I’ve asked myself is what do I feel about conference alignment. Is it structured properly? Is there a better way to do it? I have made a promise to myself, I’ve made a promise to the presidents, and anyone that I talk with that I am going to evaluate everything. Now it may be a short evaluation, maybe how it is structured now is perfect, and it’s working, but it is definitely something that I want to take a look at. One of the things I’ve noticed that you can’t do, you can’t make determinations based on how teams have done, or how teams are doing, because if you just look at what happened this year in the Big Ten, I mean Indiana had a great season, Minnesota had a great season.
So years bring different results, but I just want to make sure to look at the structure, to see if it is structured properly, and over the next course of a year quite naturally I’ll take a look and see what works the best. But I think at the end of the day, when you look at it, we had our two best teams in the championship in Indianapolis, and it turned out to be a great football game. As you see those things come together, you have to think by and large that the way it has been structured has worked, but one thing about me, I’m a person that is constantly measuring, thinking what’s best. I want to make sure that we’re doing everything we possibly can at the best level. One, for our student athletes, first and foremost, but also for our fans that we keep developing the Big Ten Conference at a level that we are very proud of.
ON FOOTBALL PLAYING NINE LEAGUE GAMES
Warren: I do feel strongly about the nine game schedule. I think it works, and it has worked for us. I think one thing about our teams, they are physically and mentally tough. They are battle tested. They can play anywhere. They can play in a dome. They can play outdoors. And as with most sporting events, this games come down, I’m a big believer after spending 30 years around sports, the more complicated that this games becomes, or as you get a little bit down the road, it seems like it comes down to two or three plays and it changes the whole dynamic. I think what you’re seeing is that we’re developing student athletes that are competitors. So I feel very comfortable where we are, I feel comfortable about the nine game season. One thing I don’t want to do is to create an environment where we’re playing games that we shouldn’t be playing. I believe that you should play a tough schedule that prepares you for the College Football Playoff, it prepares you for bowl games.
But again, that will be something that we’ll evaluate, but I just think that as it designed right now to play our nine conference games is really important, and we don’t take byes at critical times during the season. In the Big Ten we are hearty Midwesterners, we go from Nebraska to New Jersey, we don’t have a domed stadium, we play our games outdoors, and we create tough minded, physical football teams who are very creative also. We have some great coaches in our conference. We have some great players. And you’ll see that not only in how the teams do, but if you look at the (NFL) draft this year, we’ll have a lot of our players who are drafted. And so I’m comfortable with the way our players are trained and are playing, and as we look over time, and things again are cyclical, I feel like we have some excellent football teams that will be able to compete for a national championship over the next couple years. And when you feel that then I am very comfortable with how our scheduling has happened up until now.
ON BASKETBALL 20 GAME LEAGUE SCHEDULE
Warren: I’m a big believer, and this goes back to my days in the NFL and the great Dick Vermeil who is a mentor of mine, that at the end of the day to win a championship, you’re going to have to win enough games to get into the playoffs, and then you’re going to have to win all of your games in the playoffs to touch a Lombardi Trophy. And so that’s something that has been in my mind. I think that the more you can create an environment where teams are battle tested, and so I like the 20 game concept. I like a tough schedule. I like what we’ve done with the Gavitt Games and the Big Ten / ACC Challenge.
Our players, by the time that they get into our conference tournament, but especially the NCAA Tournament, I don’t think they fear any teams or any conferences, they’ve played them. And they’ve played a lot of games and a lot of quality basketball. And I strongly believe in years like this year it will be very positive to us as the NCAA Selection Committee starts to choose teams, so I’m a big believer that you need to be challenged, competition is critical, and I think the more that we can allow our teams to play games in our conference and games with other conferences, the better off in the long term that we’re going to be. So I like the structure as it stands right now.
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