5 things to know about Ohio State’s perspective on the Big Ten adding USC, UCLA

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Ohio State AD Gene Smith on Notre Dame and the Big Ten expansion

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Ohio State president Kristina Johnson and director of athletics Gene Smith held a press conference early Friday morning to talk about the seismic news that hit college football less than 12 hours earlier: USC and UCLA are set to join the Big Ten in 2024.

The long-time Pac-12 partners’ move will take two years to complete, and it set off a wide range of questions.

ExploreSmith says UCLA and USC 'add weight' to Big Ten

Smith and Johnson answered a few less than 12 hours after the move was announced.

Here are five takeaways from their meeting with the media:

1. It’s mostly about TV money.

Smith said the Big Ten was not looking to expand, but the conference received calls from multiple schools as it negotiated what is expected to be a lucrative deal for its media broadcast rights.

Adding another major TV market will make the league’s games more valuable to potential partners like Fox, CBS and ESPN/ABC (or even Apple or Amazon streaming services) and drive up the money the league can command for advertising and carriages fees for the Big Ten Network.

“This helps move the needle in that regard,” said Smith, who also called the two California schools good fits institutionally and culturally.

2. Beyond that, two more long-time name-brand programs could give the Big Ten more clout.

“For Ohio State, it frankly provides two other schools in an unbelievable market that can frankly carry some weight,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, Ohio State over the years is a program that for the Big Ten has been at the top of the pyramid and carries a significant amount of weight in the value of the Big Ten.

“Now we have two others that can contribute to that weight, and we’re really excited about that. So this is no disparagement to any other school — it’s just reality. You asked specifically about how this impacts Ohio State.”

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Gene Smith explains why Big Ten adding USC, UCLA is good for Ohio State during a news conference in Columbus on July 1, 2022.

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3. Smith did not rule out future moves involving Notre Dame.

“Again, it’s hard to speculate on that,” said Smith, who played defensive line for the Fighting Irish in the 1970s. “I love my alma mater — except when we play them in any sport — but I’ve always felt like they should be in a conference. And I hope that they are considering that. I don’t know what a next step would be, but I’ve always shared that I hope they consider that opportunity and I hope it’s the Big Ten.”

Notre Dame’s men’s ice hockey team plays in the Big Ten, but the football team remains independent while its other sports are part of the ACC.

4. Expanding to 16 teams could help the Big Ten keep up with the SEC.

The SEC caught most of the college football world off guard last year when it poached Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12, two name brands that figure to help the rich get richer.

UCLA and USC jumping to the Big Ten makes for an easy comparison, but Smith said the moves aren’t directly related.

“It had nothing to do with Texas or Oklahoma or setting up mega conferences for the future,” Smith said. “It was about what does the Big Ten need? And our marketing and media rights opportunities along with the great relationship that we have with two institutions that culturally fit us was just too good to pass up.

“So it was more about those things than it was about trying to compare to the SEC as we move forward. Certainly it sets us up for the future with the (College Football Playoff) and whatever emerges in that landscape. Those outcomes are real. Certainly that aligns us more with the SEC as an outcome, but that wasn’t a driving force.”

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Ohio State AD Gene Smith on the potential future of major college football

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5. Johnson highlighted some academic benefits for Ohio State, the Big Ten and the Midwest.

Ohio State’s third-year president, who attended Stanford and previously worked at Colorado among other places, said the academic impact should be significant for the Big Ten and the region Ohio State calls home as it tries to position itself for developing the workforce of the future.

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Ohio State president Kristina Johnson on the future of the 'silicon heartland'

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“So I want to step back for a minute,” she said at the end of the press conference. “Just think about where the future of the country is going. We know a lot about Intel investing in central Ohio, in the ‘Silicon Heartland.’ It is really important for the future of the country that the Midwest step up and continue to be an innovative engine.

“And when you think about these universities that are in the Big Ten, this is going to help strengthen the connections to the West Coast and to the East Coast. And I think that this is our time in the Midwest, to continue to build on that excellence and educate students that are going to be required for the future of the country, especially with Intel and the semiconductor industry is going to reshore and they’re going to reshore here in Ohio.”

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