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Big Ten coaches react to USC, UCLA's  inclusion into the conference, Part I

The Trojans and Bruins expand the Big Ten's footprint to the West Coast...

The world of college athletics experienced more seismic change this summer when news broke that Pac-12 Conference founding members USC and UCLA would cut ties with their traditional league in favor for the greener pastures of the Big Ten Conference.

The move, which will occur in 2024, will end the Trojans' and Bruins' 109-year history in the West Coast's premier conference.

At Day 1 of the 2022 Big Ten Media Days, all seven head coaches shared their opinions on USC and UCLA's inclusion into the Big Ten, and what it means for their universities and the landscape of college football.

Nebraska’s Scott Frost:

“I just want to compliment the league, and the leadership of the league. I think everybody can see the landscape changing, and this move pretty much ensures that we’re out in front of it and relevant in college football, no matter where it all ends up.”

“I’ve coached against those two teams before. I think they’ll be great additions to the league and I’m looking forward to this year and beyond to see where the whole things lands when the dust settles.”

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Maryland’s Mike Locksley:

“I think it’s a win for the conference. And, obviously, the commissioner and the powers-that-be felt that they are a fit for the Big Ten. Very like-minded universities to what the Big Ten is all about – great academics and great athletics. So, to add those two types of teams, that have storied history, is a win for the Big Ten.”

“As far as the flight, it is what it is. For us, we’ll play the games that are on our schedule. We’ll manage it and come up with a way to, hopefully, get out there and play our best. But, it’s great to have those two storied programs come to the Big Ten.”

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Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck:

“The first thing that came to my mind was – L.A.? Are you kidding me? That’s perfect! I mean, the Big Ten is now represented from the West Coast to the East Coast and, if you look at the major media markets now, that’s incredibly positive.”

“I look at everything through the lens of the University of Minnesota. We have a ton of living alumni out on the West Coast, and now that Big Ten footprint is really stationed there for all of our alumni.”

“Does playing out there help recruiting? I think it’s ‘yes’ and ‘no’. I think it’s very different than it used to be 10 years ago, where kids can live-stream games, they can watch any game they want, they have all the types of resources on their phones. But I do think it’s very positive for the conference and the league. We’re excited about it. It’s coast-to-coast.”

“People asked me a question back there about travel. I think other sports could be affected by it but, again, I look at it from the football eyes. I was part of MACtion. You know – Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday nights I had nine-hour bus rides. I don’t know if too many people asked me that question. So, I think there are people way smarter than me that will figure all that out, in terms of how we’re going to make that all work, but…it’s a positive blueprint for the Big Ten and change is really healthy. It’s a big change, and we’re excited about having the L.A. market in the Big Ten.”

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Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald:

“I’m excited to add USC and UCLA. Obviously, the expansion of our footprint from the East Coast to the West Coast – you’re going to wake up watching Big Ten football and go to bed watching Big Ten football. So, that’s exciting for our players, it’s exciting for our fans.”

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“Will there be a travel component to it? Yeah, there is. But, we’re going to Dublin in the opener, you know? So, it won’t be that big of a deal.”

“You look at the opportunities, especially for a school like Northwestern – we recruit worldwide. We have a huge alumni base in southern California. A few years back, I spoke at the Contemporary Art Museum [of Los Angeles] to about 400 alums. We’ve always recruited California, so I’m excited to add that component to it.”

“Where it’s going to go, and how it’s going to shake out by the time we get to 2024, I think we’ll all be excited to see how that goes. But, it will definitely be a new thing and a new opportunity, but I think the commissioner [Kevin Warren] said it best – Change is kind of the word of college football right now, and we’ll lean forward and embrace that.”

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Indiana’s Tom Allen:

“When I was a kid, I had a poster in my bedroom of the 10 Big Ten schools, and that’s what I think of as the ‘Big Ten’, to be honest with you, just the traditions and the histories of all those schools that started up this great conference. But, then, you know, you’ve got to adapt to change, right? So, even from then you got four more schools were added, and now you’ve got two more schools, so six more from that original group, which shows growth and progress.”

“You think about the kids we recruit – they’re not as regional as I was growing up. Well, it’s not even close to how I was raised, growing up, in regards to that. They’re traveling all over the country, AAU tournaments for basketball, football, travel baseball – whatever sports they play growing up. And they meet a lot of kids, they connect with each other, they’re all on each other’s social media accounts, so they don’t really think as closed as we do, as adults, sometimes.”

“With the addition of UCLA and USC, immediately opportunities expand for us in regards to recruiting further out West. So, there’s a lot to be said for holding on to certain traditions that you have, and that’s good. But you have to be willing to change. As coaches, I have to be willing to change. As a conference, we have to change. As a university, we have to be willing to change and accept that, hey, NIL is here to stay. We’ve got to embrace it.”

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Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz:

“I was either in Maine or the NFL when Penn State joined the Big Ten and, I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but I’m pretty sure it was about one sport joining our conference, [football]. It was good for our conference, and it made a lot of sense on a lot of levels. I think it’s fair to say that was the case with Nebraska as well a couple years ago, and I think it’s fair to say that’s why we played during the pandemic and no one else did. We were the only sport in operation, to my knowledge, nationally.”

“This is just the world we live in. This has become an entertainment business, [and] it’s going to be revenue-driven. I’ve said, jokingly, that I don’t know how the NCAA works and I’m in the home city of it. After 23 years, I’m totally confused how legislation gets passed or doesn’t get passed, and I really don’t care anymore at this point. But, one thing I’m pretty sure of is that TV predicts the future. What TV wants is going to materialize, especially when new contracts are coming. That’s just the world we live in now.”

“There’s really no sense to worry about it, and it probably doesn’t make sense for somebody my age to think about UCLA or USC being one of our Big Ten rivals, but that’s where we’re going so embrace it and enjoy it. I’m just glad I’m not coaching on the West Coast having to come this way all the time. That would be a change.”

“They’re both names everybody knows. When you’re a kid, you knew about UCLA, you knew about USC, so I think it makes a lot of sense – other than geography. It just doesn’t make sense there and, you know, obviously what it’s going to do to impact the Rose Bowl and what that’s been traditionally – the trend in college football right now is tradition is not quite what it used to be on the list of priorities. Whether you like it or not, it’s the world we live in, so embrace it.”

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Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh:

“Great programs, great academic programs. It will be great fit, I think.”

“Personally, I’m an old school guy. I kind of like a strong West Coast conference, a strong Southeast conference, a strong Midwest conference, a strong East Coast conference. But, things are different now. Things have changed and they’ll be – it’s probably not the last either, I would guess. We’ll see.”

“I’m glad we’re in it! You know? It should be a heck of a ride.”

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