Iowa athletic director Gary Barta speaks on adding USC, UCLA to Big Ten

Barta said tradition, academic performance, athletic performance, and location were key reasons to add the two California schools.


Jenna Galligan

Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta speaks at a press conference on Monday, June 15, 2020 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Chris Werner, Summer Sports Editor

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta took questions from members of the media on July 8 for the first time since it was announced USC and UCLA would join the Big Ten in 2024 on June 30.

The two California schools — previously members of the Pac-12 conference — will be the 15th and 16th schools in the Big Ten and will be the first two west of Nebraska.

Barta said he was pleased to be adding those schools to the conference, noting they both have strong histories academically and athletically.

RELATED: USC, UCLA to join Big Ten in 2024

Barta, who worked in the Pac-12 as the senior associate athletic director at Washington from 1996-2003, said that athlete treatment, and location were also factors as the Big Ten is currently working on a new media rights deal.

“The Big Ten now has a presence in New York, Chicago, LA, and in between,” Barta said.

Barta said USC and UCLA contacted the conference about joining about a week before the announcement was made.

Barta said the Big Ten is not actively seeking new members, nor were they when USC and UCLA asked to join. However, the conference is taking calls from schools interested in joining, Barta said.

The additions of USC and UCLA, Barta said, would likely aid in the discontinuation of the East and West football divisions in the Big Ten, something he said the conference was already leaning away from. He said while the Big Ten is leaning away from divisions, they have not determined exactly what the conference will do instead.

The new additions may not allow some rivalry football games to be played each year. Iowa may not get to face Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska every year. Barta said he loves those rivalries but it might not be logistically possible to play each one every season.

“I’m going to fight for as many of the rivalries as we can get, but I also understand it may be in the best interest of the conference to not play every one of those every year,” Barta said.

Barta said the Big Ten expansion was not a direct response to Oklahoma and Texas leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, but in the new look college sports world, UCLA and USC put the Big Ten in a better spot than it was before.

RELATED: Opinion | Big Ten gains significant edge adding UCLA and USC

While Barta said he’s used to having conferences that are concentrated in each region of the country, he also noted that college sports is an ever-changing entity and that his job is to put Iowa and the Big Ten in the best position possible.

“I’m used to a West Coast conference, and two Midwest conferences, and a Southeast, and an East. I’m used to that, and —  I’ll speak for myself — change can be challenging sometimes … I’m not against change, so I’m embracing it,” Barta said.