College football is the sun, moon and stars when it comes to just about everything in major college athletics. Football drives the revenue which influences media deals and conference realignment.

Kevin Warren came from the world of football and exits back to it after running the Big Ten from 2020-23 as the league's commissioner. Warren resigned as commissioner last week to take over as president of the Chicago Bears.

Warren's career move was no surprise. He was the Minnesota Vikings' CEO when he was named Big Ten commissioner, and the entirety of his career was spent in the NFL before his Big Ten sojourn.

But what is his legacy on the basketball side?

Warren's two most lasting legacies for all sports will be the additions of USC and UCLA in 2024 and the August media deal with Fox, CBS and NBC that will pay the Big Ten $7 billion in a deal that runs from 2023-30. Both moves certainly have a major role in men's basketball as well.

The media deal will change the way Big Ten fans view the sport. Fox and CBS have been part of the landscape for several years, and Fox runs the Big Ten Network -- which has brought a valuable revenue stream into the league.

Swapping NBC for ESPN is a fundamental change for viewers. ESPN has broadcast Big Ten athletics since the 1980s, and some of the Big Ten's most iconic games since then have aired on ESPN and its family of networks.

NBC will broadcast Big Ten games regularly for the first time since the early 1980s, and some of the Big Ten games will appear on NBC's streaming service, Peacock. 

UCLA and USC, on the court, bring brand-names, and in the case of UCLA, one of the greatest legacies in college basketball history.

UCLA has won 11 NCAA Tournament championships, and the Bruins are currently ranked fifth in the Associated Press Top 25. USC doesn't have the same history, but the Trojans have had six 20-win seasons in the last seven years.

The addition of both brings the Big Ten to 16 teams, which will change the tournament format.

"We'll have to look at how that works. We have individuals in our organization working on what those potential tournaments will look like," Warren said during Big Ten media days in September.

Warren, who worked for the Vikings from 2005-19, played a role in the Big Ten tournament being played in Minneapolis at the Target Center in 2024. The addition of UCLA and USC opens up the West Coast and, perhaps, Las Vegas for future Big Ten tournaments.

"We can have them anywhere across the country," Warren said in September.

As for what Warren did during his time as commissioner? His basketball seasons were influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, the Big Ten tournament was canceled after one day of action. In 2021, every Big Ten school except Michigan managed to finish at least 19 of the 20 scheduled Big Ten games. In 2022, the Big Ten completed a full schedule despite COVID stoppages in college basketball in January.

The Big Ten put nine teams in the tournament in Warren's two full seasons, but none advanced to the Final Four. Future member UCLA was in the Final Four in 2021.

UNWELCOME COVID RETURN

Thursday's Northwestern-Iowa game, to be played at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, was postponed due to COVID-19 cases among the Wildcats.

According to Stadium's Jeff Goodman, Northwestern had only six players available for the trip.

The Big Ten will attempt to work with Iowa and Northwestern to get the game rescheduled.

Northwestern is next scheduled to play at Michigan on Sunday. The status of that game is unknown and depends on the progression of COVID-19 cases with the team.

The latest COVID-19 subvariant is XBB 1.5. Nicknamed "Kraken", it is the most transmissable yet. Cases are rising as XBB 1.5 has become the dominant strain in parts of the country.

It isn't just the Big Ten that has seen an unwelcome return of COVID-19 disruption. It was announced Wednesday that Connecticut coach Dan Hurley and assistant coach Kimani Young will miss the Huskies' game at Seton Hall as both have COVID-19.

PAINTER MILESTONE

Matt Painter earned his 200th career Big Ten victory in the most thrilling fashion Monday ... and he beat the man ahead of him in Big Ten wins to get there.

A Zach Edey layup with 2.2 seconds left gave Purdue a 64-63 victory at Michigan State.

Not only did the win give No. 3 Purdue a one-game lead in the Big Ten race but lifted Painter to a Big Ten mark only Bob Knight, Tom Izzo, Gene Keady, Lou Henson, Ward Lambert and Branch McCracken reached.

Izzo, Michigan State's boss, leads in active Big Ten wins with 326. Iowa's Fran McCaffery is third behind Izzo and Painter with 119. None of the other active Big Ten coaches have more than 100.

 

George Bremer

Sports Editor

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