OSU men's basketball coach Chris Holtmann excited about USC and UCLA joining Big Ten

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch

Chris Holtmann is aware of the travel challenges the Big Ten’s addition of Southern California and UCLA will present.

But the Ohio State men’s basketball coach believes the positives of adding the Los Angeles-based schools far outweigh the negatives.

“I think it's a really good move for the Big Ten,” Holtmann said. “I think it's a really smart move by those two institutions given how things have changed and are going to continue to change in the next, say, 5-10 years. I think it makes sense for all parties in a lot of ways.

“Obviously, geographically, it's not necessarily the (best) fit, but in every other way, it really fits the mission of the Big Ten. It makes a lot of sense in my mind. I can see why it was done, and I’m excited about it.”

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Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said Friday that the travel issue from adding USC and UCLA wouldn’t be a huge one for most sports. Most games could be scheduled on weekends to minimize academic disruption, he said.

Coach Mick Cronin returned UCLA to the Final Four two years ago.

“Basketball will probably be the one that will be most challenging because of our television relationships,” Smith said.

Basketball games are played midweek as well as on weekends.

“As you talk to NBA teams when they're traveling different time zones, going East Coast to West Coast, or Midwest to West Coast, it takes a toll on the body," Holtmann said. "It can certainly impact performance, so I think that's real.

“But every team is going to have to do it, and obviously those two schools are going to have heavy travel. Still, all things considered, including the challenges of travel, I can still look at this from my seat and say I think this is an excellent move.”

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Holtmann said Smith called him Thursday to inform him of the possibility of adding USC and UCLA.

“I was excited when he told me,” Holtmann said.

Holtmann knows UCLA coach Mick Cronin well. They played each other’s teams when Holtmann was at Butler and Cronin at Cincinnati. They met again in Cleveland in 2020 when OSU defeated UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic.

“I've got a lot of respect for Mick and in the coach he is and the program he runs,” Holtmann said. “A tremendous amount of respect.”

UCLA is one of the most storied programs in college basketball. The Bruins under John Wooden won the national championship 10 times in 12 years from 1964-75. The Bruins’ 11 national titles are the most by any school. The program dipped after the Wooden era, but Cronin returned UCLA to the Final Four two years ago when the Bruins lost an epic overtime game against Gonzaga in the semifinals.

USC’s basketball history is spotty, but the Trojans have had their moments. Coach Andy Enfield led USC to the Elite Eight in 2021.

“You're talking about a traditional blueblood in UCLA that is going to be terrific for Big Ten fan bases and certainly for TV to have some of the matchups that we can certainly provide,” Holtmann said. “And USC has really had an outstanding program the last several years. So I think (adding) both programs make a lot of sense.”

Even if travel is an issue. But Holtmann looked on the bright side of that as well.

“January in L.A. for a couple days,” he said, “we'll manage. I won't disparage any other locations or cities. I'm just saying we’ll be OK.”

Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at or on Twitter @brdispatch.

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