Good evening, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.
Last week, while half of the national college football press corps was at the NCAA Convention, one of the biggest jobs in college sports opened up. Big Ten commissioner Warren officially left to become the new CEO of the Chicago Bears.
My esteemed colleagues throughout the industry assembled multiple candidate lists, and if those names are any indication, the Big Ten will have plenty of exceptionally qualified folks to interview. The conference could decide to hire a sitting conference commissioner like Jim Phillips or Jennifer Heppel. They could hire a Big Ten athletic director like Gene Smith, Martin Jarmond, or Josh Whitman. They could hire an experienced media professional like Mark Silverman, or a university administrator like Ted Carter or Kirk Schulz. There's no shortage of talent who might be interested.
I'm sure any number of people on that list, or elsewhere, could do a very good job.
But I've had some time to think about this, and I really believe that the Big Ten would be best served by some bold, outside leadership. I think the Big Ten should look in a completely different direction.
Specifically, in my direction. The Big Ten should hire me.
Okay, Matt, don't be ridiculous. You don't have anywhere near enough experience for that kind of job.
I don't? I've been writing about college sports for over a decade, with much of that coverage spent getting into the deep weeds of college sports governance. You know who didn't have college sports governance experience before getting a major college sports job? Kevin Warren! George Kliavkoff! Brett Yormark!
Heck, it's not a stretch to say that I have more professional experience in the nitty-gritty of college sports administration than the new head of the NCAA.
So maybe it's time to rethink what kind of experience is actually necessary, no?
Yeah, but you've never negotiated a multimillion-dollar media deal, you're not an attorney, and you've never led a massive organization before...what are you bringing to the table?
According to Sportico, Warren made about $3.4 million dollars from the Big Ten. I will happily accept the job for less than 10% of that. Paying me $300,000 a year leaves plenty of money to hire an experienced team to surround me with the subject experience I lack (again, like the Big Ten previously did with Warren), while having a little left over to kick back to the schools.
Plus, there's no need for expensive relocation packages. I already live in Chicago! I'm roughly halfway between the conference offices in Rosemont and the BTN offices downtown.
Here's what I do bring to the table....
I am a son of the Midwest with deep ties to multiple Big Ten institutions
The Big Ten may span from coast-to-coast now, but at its core, it's still a midwestern institution, born out of heartland values and traditions. Who better to advocate for those values than a native who understands them deeply?
I was born and raised in Licking County, Ohio, just east of Columbus. I not only hold a BA from the Ohio State, but also attended the school's Newark campus.
But my ties to the Big Ten are not limited just to Ohio State. My wife grew up in Evanston, just a few blocks away from Northwestern. My father-in-law works at Northwestern AND earned his BA at UCLA. My late mother may have earned two degrees at Ohio State, but also received her PhD at the University of Wisconsin (my desk has a little UW Terrace Chair in her memory). For several years, we lived a few blocks from the University of Maryland, and I wrote most of my book from the school's library.
I've lived all over this great country, with most of it being in the Big Ten's ever expanding footprint. I am a Big Ten Guy. If you cut me, I'll bleed Culver's cheese curds, and that's not just because I need to lose some weight.
I know how to communicate with all of the Big Ten's important constituencies
One thing I've really had to learn in this job is how to talk to everybody involved in college athletics. I am constantly talking to not just coaches and ADs, but faculty members, presidents, athletes, media consultants, lawmakers, agents, and more. I'm as comfortable talking to somebody at the Drake Group or Knight Commission as I am at Navigate or Learfield.
The Big Ten already has its big media deal. Most of the biggest contracts are set for a few years. The major priorities in the short term are more about rebuilding relationships on campus, working with government bodies, and reshaping the future of college sports. I think you'll want somebody in that role who can comfortably go to NASSM, go to NACDA, and then go on Reddit to explain it to your fans. I can be that guy.
There is nobody more qualified to work in a Chicago office building that is also connected to a Brazilian steakhouse
Can your preferred Big Ten candidate order in Portuguese? Does your candidate know feijoada from farofa?
When The University of São Paulo calls about potentially joining as a soccer affiliate, you'll be glad you hired me.
So what kinds of policy ideas do you have?
Glad you asked!
I recommend the Big Ten aggressively work to fund new facilities, new staffers, and new support for prep sports in important cities, starting in Chicago
Students are the lifeblood of the Big Ten, and not just students who become college athletes. Even with the addition of USC, UCLA, Maryland and Rutgers, the Big Ten's core markets are losing population, and recruiting talent, to other cities in the country. Chicago is not cranking out four-stars like it used to.
The Big Ten has the branding and resources to help address this. I would recommend the league earmark a portion of media revenues to help hire athletic directors, certified coaches, and support staff for Chicago Public School athletics, as well as funds to remodel athletic facilities and even potentially build new facilities. Youth football fields across Chicagoland should say "brought to you by the Big Ten." Pools around Chicago should have banners from Big Ten institutions. Students should be bussed up to HQ to tour the mini museum.
By taking steps to improve access and quality of the youth sports systems in their footprint, the Big Ten can not just improve the quality and quantity of athletes in their footprint, but take another step towards recruiting even more talented students for their institutions.
I recommend the Big Ten show true leadership and start paying the players
This is supposed to be the conference that leads, that helps define what college sports should be, what is motivated by higher ideals than just the pure maximization of gate receipts and TV revenues. It hasn't always lived up to those ideals, but it has tried.
The best way to demonstrate that in 2023 is not to talk about maybe thinking about sharing TV revenue on HBO. It isn't to hem and haw about how complicated these questions are. The best way to do it is to demonstrate that the Big Ten wants to be the most athlete-friendly conference in college athletics. The Big Ten should start sharing television revenue with current athletes as soon as logistically and legally possible.
It does not have to be the perfect plan. It doesn't have to be the plan that we'll all use in 2029. I don't think there is anything stopping this conference from saying, "we believe that our athletes should share in the revenue they are helping to generate. While we wait for the courts and lawmakers to provide clarity, we can begin this process by earmarking a percentage of those revenues to a fund that all Big Ten athletes will have access to after the completion of their eligibility."
It's not a perfect solution, but I believe it would be a good faith first start to chip away at the influence of collectives and other third parties, and further establish the Big Ten as a destination for athletes.
I recommend the Big Ten become the most fan-friendly conference in America
There are no massive revenues, no 100,000 seat stadiums and no BTN without fans, a constituency group that has largely been ignored over the last few years. It's time to aggressively fight to reclaim lost good-will from fans. The Big Ten can do that by:
- Pledging to be the most affordable major conference by telling fans that they'll only need to subscribe to one streaming service to watch all major sporting events per season. In parts of the Big Ten footprint that lack widespread high-speed internet, the league will work to find local TV simulcast options for big games. In the event that future contracts or schedules put basketball games on multiple streaming packages, schools will offer subscription vouchers to anybody who bought directly bought tickets that season. Anybody who buys tickets to a November basketball game shouldn't have to pay for ESPN+ and Peacock.
- Pledging that each ET and CT squad will only play one late-night west coast tip-off basketball (men's and women's) game a season, even if that means less TV money. Nobody wants to stay up until 11:30 on a weeknight to watch Rutgers at USC.
- Making it illegal for any head coach of any sport to retain a blood relative as a coordinator, and especially if that coordinator stinks. Any school that continues to do this will be banished to the Horizon League.
- Pledging to put a premium on recruiting corporate sponsors that share our local identity. If we're going to sign a bowl tie-in agreement, we should want a beloved midwestern or east coast institution to sponsor it, not a pretend SaaS financial software company. We will accept less money to have a Runza Bowl, to have Homage and Homefield and Raygun make our shirts, to have Empire Carpet outfit our offices and for Menards to make our goofy old-timey trophies. You should know if you're watching a Big Ten broadcast or attending a Big Ten event.
- Speaking of beloved local institutions, In-N-Out has to establish a franchise in Chicago if UCLA and USC are going to stay in the league. I'm giving them three years. Figure it out.
- Making Penn State's athletic department respond to FOIAs.
- Also, every school in the conference will be given a choice. Either they need to get serious and start a hockey program, or they'll need to spend enough money to actually try at baseball. No more of this "flirting with the MVC and SoCon for league RPI" business. Either build a rink or build a dome around the baseball field. Let's get serious.
Am I a conventional candidate? No. But these are unconventional times.
I love Extra Points and I love working at D1.ticker. But friends, I just want you all to know that if nominated, I will run. And if hired, I will serve. I will go to Rosemont. I will attend the catered business lunches. I will shoulder this burden.
And no, it isn't because I'm trying to get out of doing transcribing some interviews.
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