According to The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC could announce an alliance between the three conferences as soon as next week.
Conversations between the three conferences about working together have come in response to the SEC’s move last month to poach Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12. Per Auerbach, “administrators in all three leagues have stressed in recent conversations that issues of governance can and should be front and center.”
Specifically, the conferences want to work together to preserve the collegiate model, and they could collectively vote to delay the implementation of an expanded College Football Playoff until after the CFP’s current TV rights deal with ESPN – which is also set to become the SEC’s primary media rights partner in 2024 – ends in 2026. If an expanded playoff was implemented before then, ESPN would have exclusive negotiating rights to continue televising the CFP.
An alliance between the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC could also lead to future scheduling agreements between the three conferences. However, Auerbach reports that there are still “many details to iron out,” so it is unclear how specific an announcement between the conferences will be about what exactly the alliance will entail.
By working together, though, the three conferences – whose commissioners are all in either their first or second year at the helm of their conferences – can help ensure they remain among the power conferences in college sports while the Big 12’s future grows increasingly uncertain.
A few thoughts:
- This means the Big 12 is dead. Done. Buried. The SEC is obviously the Thanos of college football conference, and now the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 are apparently about to announce that they’re in an “alliance,” which I assume means they’re de facto basically one big conference, although they’ll officially remain autonomous and independent (not “independent” in the Notre Dame sense, but in terms of the conferences themselves). The Big 12 is left out. Clearly the other conferences look at the Big 12 as a dead conference. If and when this alliance is announced, it’s the end for the Big 12, officially.
- But here’s the thing: I don’t know what “alliance” means. I’m assuming they’ve all agreed that they’ll all vote in unison with one another in order to ensure they always have the numbers to out-vote the SEC. Had they just combined into one mega-conference, it would be one vote to the SEC’s one vote. But with this “alliance,” as opposed to an outright merger, they’ll still have three votes.
- The thing is, though, how can they all be certain their interests will align on every issue that the conferences vote on? What if there’s something that’s good for the Big Ten and Pac-12, but bad for the ACC? Will the ACC have to still bite the bullet and vote in accordance with the other two in the “alliance”? It seems like problems could arise. After all, there’s good reasons these conferences weren’t “allied” before.
- The scheduling stuff is obviously the more interesting part: does this mean schools in the three conference alliance will regularly play one another? These games obviously won’t count towards your conference record, so will it just be agreements to play non-conference games each year between, say, Ohio State and Clemson, or USC and Florida State for example? I don’t get the point of that, really. Big-time programs have lately been shying away from huge, blockbuster non-conference matchups because the risk outweighs the reward. Clemson and Ohio State are virtual locks for the playoff each year so long as they win their conferences, so why would they want to risk taking an early-season L and potentially screwing up their playoff odds? That means they have to run the table in conference play, because no team has made the CFP with 2-losses. You have no more margin for error if you lose a non-conference game. And the benefits are not all that clear for scheduling a big non-conference game: again, if you’re Ohio State and Clemson, you don’t have to prove anything. You’re already assumed to be elite every year. Only smaller schools have incentive to schedule big time non-conference games, because they have a lot to gain from it if they win.
- What does the article mean by “preserve the collegiate model”? I need more on this.
- I guess the big deal here is these three conferences teaming up to delay the move to a 12-team playoff until 2026. They don’t want ESPN, which is about to become the home of the SEC, to have exclusive rights to the playoff broadcasts. The Big Ten has a deal with Fox, and I believe the Pac-12 does as well although I could be wrong. They’re going to want Fox to get some of the television rights for the playoff, and so by delaying the new playoff format until 2026, when ESPN’s 14-year contract on the CFP runs out, it will allow Fox to get in on the bidding for playoff games. If the conferences and ESPN agree to terminate that 14-year contract early so that they can start the new 12-team playoff ASAP, then ESPN gets the exclusive rights to it.
- Finally, what’s Notre Dame’s role in all of this? Will they formally join the ACC? It seems unlikely because they’ve got it pretty good as an independent program, but they might have to join the ACC if the ACC joins into some sort of super alliance with the Big Ten and Pac-12.
It’s all very interesting stuff, and 2021 has so far been an absolute landmark year for college football. We’ll have to wait and see when the formal announcement is made.