Presser Bullets: Gene Smith Says Addition of USC, UCLA is "What's Best" For the Big Ten, Kristina Johnson Says "It's Gonna Be Big"

By Griffin Strom on July 1, 2022 at 8:46 am

Ohio State's administrators had plenty to address on Friday morning.

The Big Ten announced Thursday that USC and UCLA will join the conference in 2024, and that is no small development in the landscape of college football and collegiate athletics as a whole.

Buckeye athletic director Gene Smith and president Kristina Johnson held a press conference Friday to discuss the implications of the Big Ten's expansion and talked about why the move was made and what might come next as the Power 5 conferences continue to restructure.

Here's a bullet-point breakdown of everything Smith and Johnson said at the Friday press conference.

Kristina Johnson

  • "California is home to 25,000 Buckeyes, it's the largest home in the country for Buckeyes."
  • On if this is the "end of the Pac-12 as we know it," Johnson says "it's a little early to speculate." Johnson says "I'd be surprised if this is the last move" that was made in terms of conference restructuring.
  • Johnson says the Big Ten is not only a great athletic conference, but also a great academic conference. "The Big Ten is a powerhouse in engineering." Johnson says the opportunities are "huge for us as a university."
  • "I'm comfortable because we have an outstanding athletic director, Gene Smith." Johnson says "there's a lot of enthusiasm for Buckeye nation" after the move.
  • Johnson says "the logistics are gonna have to be worked out" in terms of travel for Olympic sports to California. "Distance is gonna have to be something we work out."
  • Johnson says road games have been an academic issue for student-athletes since she was in college.
  • On the impact of the move, Johnson says "it's gonna be big. ... We understood how game-changing this is." Johnson says "this is the best thing for our student-athletes."
  • On collective bargaining for student-athletes when it comes to TV money, Johnson says "I see them as two separate issues."

Gene Smith

  • Smith says USC and UCLA formally submitted applications to join the conference Thursday morning, and that Kevin Warren called a meeting immediately thereafter. Smith says "a number of schools" have inquired about joining the Big Ten prior to Thursday.
  • "I wish I had a crystal ball." Smith says "the landscape will continue to change, who knows how." Smith says a number of Olympic sports at Ohio State already compete across the country, mitigating concerns about cross-country travel.
  • Smith says "we weren't doing it in response to the SEC. We were doing it for our needs." Smith says "this helps move the needle" in terms of the Big Ten's new TV deal and that it has "nothing to do" with the SEC's addition of Texas and Oklahoma.
  • "We needed to look at what's best for our 14 schools." Smith says the Alliance between the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 "still exists," but that this has impacted it. "The fallout from this move is still fresh."
  • "All we know is now we're in the top three media markets in the country. New York, Chicago and California." Smith says there will be a "major" upside to the acquisition of USC and UCLA when it comes to the Big Ten's new TV deal.
  • On other Pac-12 schools joining the Big Ten, Smith says "I really can't answer that. We've been so focused on these two."
  • "Ohio State has been a program for the Big Ten over the years that has been at the top of the pyramid." Smith says the addition of USC and UCLA will help "carry that weight." Smith says both schools "just align with us" in the Big Ten.
  • On the impact on the Rose Bowl, Smith says "those discussions have to occur." Smith says the move won't change how the Big Ten and Pac-12 interact as entities.
  • Smith on Notre Dame: "I've always thought they should be in the conference."
  • Smith says the Big Ten and SEC "had separated ourselves a long time ago. ... This solidifies that even more."
  • Smith says the Olympic sports at USC and UCLA "probably wouldn't have been allowed to play" in the Pac-12 if the football programs went to the Big Ten.
  • "Basketball is the one that will probably be the most challenging" in terms of travel among Olympic sports.
  • "This contributes significantly to our ability to have a great relationship with our television partners." Smith says there will be "phenomenal viewership" when Ohio State plays USC in the regular season.
  • Smith says he has a Zoom call with all of the OSU coaches after the press conference, and says Ryan Day and Chris Holtmann are excited about the move. "They see the vision for this thing."
  • Smith says Ohio State "didn't have to do anything" because "what we're doing is good" in the Big Ten.
  • Smith says the only time he's ever thought about leaving the Big Ten was during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • "I get excited about the possibility of '24."
View 171 Comments