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If I Was in Charge: My first 90 days as the Big Ten Commissioner

I have been handed the keys to the Big Ten conference, and I outline my five-step action plan for my first 90 days in charge.

Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament - Semifinals Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is about what we would do if we were in charge of our favorite position group, team, conference, or sport. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our “If I Was in Charge” articles here.

Hi, my name is Jordan Williams, and I am the new commissioner for the Big Ten Conference. As the new headman in charge, I hope to uphold the great history of our conference while ushering it into a new era. Now more than ever it’s important to put our conference, coaches, and players in the best position to succeed. I believe that I am the man for this job.

Throughout history, one of the biggest complaints about the Big Ten is its lack of transparency. In response, I am publicly announcing my platform and my goals for my first 90 days on the job. I fully intend to hit the ground running, as there is no time to waste. Some of these goals I believe can be implemented almost immediately, and others will take time.

But with these five goals, the Big Ten will take its place as the best conference in college sports and bring more championships to all of our members.

My five-step action plan for my first 90 days:

  1. Decide on the scheduling format
  2. Create a Big Ten NIL Fund
  3. Create a Big Ten Combine
  4. Advocate for quarterfinal playoff games to be on campus
  5. Relegate Maryland & Rutgers, add Oregon and Washington

Decide on the scheduling format and announce it

Starting in 2024, the Big Ten will be adding UCLA and USC to the conference. As a result, we will be implementing a new scheduling model and getting rid of divisions. Everyone knows this including myself, yet the conference has dragged its feet finalizing the scheduling model and announcing it to the fans. My first move as commissioner is to make sure this is finalized as soon as possible so our fans do not have to sit and wonder what the conference will look like in 2024 and beyond.

It’s simple. We will use a 3-6-6 scheduling model, where each team will have three semi-permanent opponents and play the other 12 teams twice every four years. Aside from certain rivalries such as Ohio State and Michigan, these semi-permanent opponents can rotate every four years.

The Big Ten is a historic conference with a lot of rivalries, there is no way to keep every rivalry but allowing the semi-permanent opponents to rotate would allow every major rivalry to play every year and secondary rivalries such as Ohio State and Penn State to play six times in eight years. This is a no-brainer. The work has already been done, and I will make sure it’s final and announced as soon as possible.

Create a Big Ten NIL Fund

One of the biggest issues in college football is the employment status — or lack thereof — of college athletes. Most old-school college fans and administrators are vehemently against paying college athletes, while many of our younger fans and players think we should pay them. With Name, Image and Likeness at the forefront of college football, I believe it should be used at a conference level to support players without making them employees. There are a lot of ways to facilitate this, but I propose tying it to end-of-season awards.

Similar to the Heisman Trust, end-of-season awards would come with a check — let’s say $5,000-$50,000 depending on the award. This would be eligible for all sponsored sports, men’s and women’s, and would be a consistent and fair way to put money in players’ pockets.

For example, a player like Caitlyn Clark, who was First Team All-Big Ten, Big Ten Player of the Year, unanimous All-American, and won multiple basketball player of the year awards would be paid a set number for each award she won. National awards and player of the year awards would bring in the most money, but all players would be eligible for these awards and subsequent NIL payment.

This would be the start, but it could be added to. For example, players of the year for each sport could get a year-long NIL appointment with the conference, where they make money for appearing in Big Ten commercials and Big Ten events around the country. These players are at the top of their sport and bring great recognition to the conference and should be awarded for that.

The majority of benefits are for the players, as it should be, but it would be a huge recruiting tool for the conference too. Coaches would be able to tell top players that not only can they make NIL money from their school’s NIL fund, but they also make money from your conference for being elected to conference teams and winning conference or national awards. That would set the Big Ten apart from every other conference and would be a huge benefit to our players.

Create a Big Ten Combine

The Big 12 conference has created a conference combine that all schools will attend instead of hosting individual pro days. This is a great idea for many reasons. NFL scouts are super busy and they have a super tight schedule. While they will always make the time to see Ohio State or Michigan, schools like Northwestern or Minnesota or Rutgers may not get as big of a contingent, causing players to miss a chance to perform in front of NFL teams. This would be huge for all players involved, which is why I think they should borrow this concept.

I plan to take this one step further. While it is the Big Ten combine, I hope in the future to combine it with the Mid-American Conference. The MAC shares the same footprint as us, and we already have informal agreements in place including scheduling. This would be a way to make a formal partnership and allow more exposure for MAC athletes who may not get any NFL teams to their pro days.

This would be a positive for everyone involved, but most importantly our athletes.

Advocate for Quarterfinal playoff games to be on campus

With the new 12-team College Football Playoffs, it has been approved for first-round match-ups to be played on campus. That is great for those schools, but it has no benefit to the four schools who worked the hardest to achieve first-round byes. The first week of the playoffs consists of seeds No. 5-12 playing each other with the higher-seeded team hosting. In what way does it make sense for the top four seeds to not have that same privilege?

Having the first two rounds on campus is best for everyone. It creates more money for the schools, it allows fans another chance to watch their teams, which also creates a better atmosphere for the players. Currently, you’d be asking an OSU, Bama, or Georgia fan to travel for three-straight weeks to neutral sight games to watch their teams play. That is unfair to the fans and to the players.

College football is the best because of its stadiums, and its fans. Someone needs to fight for this and I plan to lead the charge.

Relegate Maryland & Rutgers, Add Oregon and Washington

This is my most ambitious plan, and also the one least likely to be approved. Throughout the history of college conferences, a program has never been kicked out of its respective conference. On top of this, is the fact that the Big Ten wants the New York, New Jersey, and DC markets. This is why they added Maryland and Rutgers, and although television markets no longer matter, the conference will be hard-pressed to give that up.

Lastly, contrary to public belief, conferences are not just about sports. The Big Ten specifically has a lot of academic entities based around the conference, and Rutgers is one of the largest and best academic schools in the nation. For all these reasons, this is probably going to get shut down, but let’s pretend the conference is logical and discuss why I plan to relegate Maryland and Rutgers and replace them with Oregon and Washington.

First, I believe that 16 teams is the perfect size for a football conference. It is the last number that fits easily into a 12-game season with nine conference games. Any other number would require scheduling gymnastics and would be a logistical nightmare. So if you only want 16 teams but want to make the conference better, you need to get rid of the weaker members.

So why Rutgers and Maryland? Well simply they’re on the east coast and we’re moving out west. Also, they have not acclimated to the conference well and bring no inherent value outside of TV markets. In almost 10 years in the conference, they haven’t developed a natural rival outside themselves, and honestly no one would miss them as conference members. Lastly, they’re the most recent additions, and while if we were being fair Northwestern might be on this list, Northwestern has been a member since the conference founding in 1896.

The case for Oregon and Washington is simple. It gives you four teams out west, which in a 3-6-6 scheduling model allows you to have a western/former Pac-12 pod with traditional rivalries, and it helps with the travel and scheduling issues. USC has not made the playoffs since its inception, but Oklahoma under Lincoln Riley has and USC is just new age OU, meaning they’ll make it as soon as the 2023 season but especially in 2024 with a 12-team playoff.

Oregon and Washington have both made the playoffs and are routinely two of the best programs in the Pac-12. UCLA, while not a football giant is already in the conference and was a package deal with USC so no need to relitigate that decision. With the addition of Oregon and Washington that would bring the Big Ten to seven teams. Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State, USC, Washington, and Wisconsin who could routinely compete to be in a 12-team playoff. That’s seven yearly bites at the apple to bring back a championship, multiple championships to the conference.

It makes us stronger in every sport, not just football and it eases some travel concerns. There is nothing that Maryland and Rutgers are giving us that we would not get from Oregon and Washington. Plus, it would be one of the few moves that can make the conference more money. This is the best move the conference could make getting rid of some dead weight and bringing in instant contenders.