Illini AD Josh Whitman Championing Big Ten’s Addition of Washington & Oregon

Matt Stevens, IlliniGuys Staff Writer

August 5, 2023

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Josh Whitman, the athletics director at the University of Illinois, couldn’t be pleased and a bigger cheerleader for the news of the Big Ten Conference acquiring Washington and Oregon. The Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors voted today to admit the University of Washington and the University of Oregon to the Big Ten Conference effective August 2, 2024, with competition to begin in all sports for the 2024-25 academic year.

In a written statement submitted minutes after the Big Ten’s official announcement was released on Friday afternoon, Whitman cited Washington’s and Oregon’s ability to “embody the Big Ten's long-held values” as evidence to how this strategic move by the league makes logical sense for the parallel growth of athletics at Illinois.

College athletics remains in a period of intense disruption,” Whitman’s statement reads. “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. 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. We thank our own chancellor, Dr. Robert Jones, for his leadership of the Big Ten's governing board, along with Commissioner Tony Petitti and the Big Ten staff for their vision and execution. The future is bright!”

According to sourced reporting by Matt Fortuna, unlike the new financial membership that was granted to the University of Southern California and the University of California at Los Angeles, Oregon's and Washington's annual cut of the Big Ten's revenue distribution is expected to start at just $30 million and grow by $1 million each year through the length of the current seven-year media rights deal. Both Oregon and Washington are reportedly being promised that they’ll receive full shares upon the next TV deal, scheduled to come up for renewal in 2030-31.

In order for an institution to be admitted to the Big Ten Conference, it must submit a written application, which must then be approved by at least 70 percent of the Big Ten COP/C. The University of Oregon and the University of Washington formally submitted applications to join the Big Ten Conference Friday afternoon and then the Big Ten COP/C met via conference call and approved both applications. The official Big Ten COP/C vote has not been officially made public.

“We are excited to welcome the University of Oregon and the University of Washington to the Big Ten Conference,” Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti stated via a written statement. “We look forward to building long-lasting relationships with the universities, administrators and staff, student-athletes, coaches and fans,” Petitti said. “Both institutions feature a combination of academic and athletic excellence that will prove a great fit for our future.”

This announcement comes less than two months after the Big Ten Conference announced league football schedules for the 2024 and 2025 that included the additions of USC and UCLA, which are officially null and void as of Aug. 4.

The Illinois football program has played three games against Oregon with the only win coming in a 20-16 result in 1970 in Memorial Stadium in Champaign. Oregon defeated the Illini 13-7 in 1993 in Champaign and 34-31 in the return game in Eugene, Oregon in 1995. Illinois has played Washington in football 11 times with the most recent game being a 44-19 win for the Huskies in 2014 in Seattle over an Illini program led by head coach Tim Beckman. Illinois last defeated Washington in football in the 1964 Rose Bowl where the Illini were led by team captain Dick Butkus.

“Like Illinois, Oregon and Washington are the flagship universities of their respective states,” Whitman’s statement reads. “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. The addition of two schools located in or near the major population and business hubs of the Pacific Northwest, combined with our enlarged presence in Los Angeles and Southern California with last summer's additions of UCLA and USC, solidifies the Big Ten's West Coast footprint and opens doors for greater connections with our university's alumni and donors, research and instructional colleagues, and business partners. In addition, it creates 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.”

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