New foes for the Illini; Oregon and Washington join the Big Ten Conference

CHAMPAIGN - Yesterday, the Big Ten formally welcomed Oregon and Washington universities into the conference, expanding it to an 18-team super conference, the largest in the history of college football. As the league’s 17th and 18th members, the two schools will begin competing in all sports starting August 2 next year.

The Ducks and Husky programs become the third and fourth Pac-12 members to leave the conference for the Big Ten in the last 13 months. USC and UCLA announced their departures last summer and joined the league fold. The addition of four west coast schools makes the super conference a coast-to-coast revenue generator.

In a statement released this morning, Athletic Director Josh Whitman welcomed Illinois' two new rivals to the Big Ten next year.

"Like Illinois, Oregon and Washington are the flagship universities of their respective states," Whitman said. "They are renowned academic institutions that have long and celebrated histories of excellence at the intersection of higher education and intercollegiate athletics. We are thrilled to have them as peers, colleagues, and competitors."

He added that new athletic rivals will create "unique opportunities for our student-athletes to experience new parts of our country, to compete against the best and brightest from all across the nation, and to develop personal networks in new sectors and locations."

The conference expansion may not be over. Circulating scuttlebutt indicates the Big Ten is also considering adding other programs like Notre Dame, Stanford, California State, or perhaps a school or two from the ACC, according to Brett McMurphy of Action Network.

"College athletics remains in a period of intense disruption. At a time when the Big Ten's voice and influence must be at its strongest, maintaining a robust philosophical alignment among the conference's growing membership has never been more needed," Whitman said. "Oregon and Washington embody the Big Ten's long-held values, and all of us at Illinois look forward to partnering with them on issues large and small in the years ahead."

The Big Ten is big spender in a buyer's market. The conference's media rights revenue is huge. Speculation from ESPN and other sources says the pot of gold for the television rights is around $30 million in 2024 with annual $1 million escalators until the completion of new deals with broadcasters. According to CBS, Oregon and Washington will receive something north of 50% shares of Big Ten media rights revenue until their contracts are renewed. Meanwhile, the other Big Ten members will rake in $60 million or more a year.