Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 alliance expected to be announced Tuesday, per reports

Written by on August 24, 2021

The Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 are expected to formally announce their long-awaited alliance on Tuesday, according to The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach and Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel and Dan Wetzel. The agreement between the three conferences will focus on NCAA governance and college football scheduling, but it is believed the leagues will also try to get on the same page regarding future College Football Playoff expansion, sources told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd last week.

Realignment among the three conferences has not been part of their discussions and will not be an issue addressed with the alliance, sources told Dodd. However, a significant portion of alliance conversations have been based on ensuring that athletes’ academic success remains integral to the college sports experience.

“Some of things we’ve been doing to ourselves, that just needs to stop,” said one high-profile official from a school within the would-be alliance. “Some of this shit, we’re talking about expanding to 12 [teams]. For two teams that [go all the way], that’s 17 games. We’re going to talk about ‘these kids aren’t professionals’ and we don’t pay them? I firmly believe in the academic value of what we’re doing, but at a certain point, it looks like professionals. … I firmly believe in the academic piece that we’re providing.”

The Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 have actively been engaged in discussions about forming a scheduling alliance for at least two weeks. 

Why is the alliance necessary?

The alliance became a priority for the three Power Five conferences after Texas and Oklahoma moved to the SEC from the Big 12. Talks between the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 have been described to CBS Sports as a “non-aggression pact” against the SEC after the Big 12 was destabilized following the losses of the Longhorns and Sooners. That power grab tipped the scales toward the SEC in future college athletics dealings.

College athletics as a whole remains wary of the SEC and ESPN dominating … everything. Big 12 revenues will decline by at least 50% with the losses of Texas and Oklahoma. It would serve ESPN well financially if the Big 12 were to fade away as that would be one less set of TV rights to pay out.

Even with the alliance, the SEC will likely maintain its advantage as the conference with the most best teams.

How will it affect playoff expansion?

Though a 12-team model has been proposed for CFP expansion, there has been substantial push back about slowing the timeline of increasing the field size with the moves of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC. The structure, access and value of an expanded playoff have yet to be determined, but considering SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was a persuasive member of the CFP expansion committee that came up with the 12-team proposal, it comes as no surprise that the three remaining full-strength Power Five conferences want to press pause.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 in particular may be interested in opening the CFP deal up for bidding once the field is expanded. In order to do that, the current contract with ESPN will need to expire in 2026. Even if those in power agree on an expanded field, the alliance could wield power in delaying its implementation until that date. The next set of CFP expansion meetings will take place in late September.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 also intend to keep pushing for inclusion of the Rose Bowl — in its traditional form — as part of any playoff expansion talks. Even without the alliance, those two conferences would support the traditional date and time of the game, Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. ET, with their teams competing in Pasadena, California.

Will there be a scheduling agreement?

If the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 agree to play scheduled nonconference games against one another, it would certainly enhance certain teams’ schedule strengths and create interesting matchups for both fans and TV networks. However, any scheduling piece of an alignment would not have an immediate impact in terms of TV revenue.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 previously discussed a scheduling alliance in 2012. The discussions eventually fell apart, but back then, it was reported that it would take at least five years until nonconference schedules could be adjusted accordingly.

One Power Five athletic director speculated that it could take 10 years to unwind nonconference schedules. One example: Michigan plays Oklahoma in 2026 and Texas in 2027. Do the Wolverines want to add another Power Five game from the Pac-12 or ACC in those years and then play a Big Ten schedule?

Will the alliance have far-reaching influence?

The Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 want to be viewed as three-pronged entity that shares similar views regarding NCAA governance at a key time with the association in the process of being remade. A constitutional convention will be held in November to essentially deregulate college athletics. Going forward, the conferences will have more control over legislation. If three are banded together, they could wield significant influence.

That means the alliance could have considerable impact — perhaps even more than the SEC — on what college athletics looks like off the field. The Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 could — as a group — support a more conservative model like what exists today. The voting structure hasn’t been worked out, but Power Five conferences currently enjoy a weighted voting advantage in NCAA governance.

“I think it’s a big portion from my perspective,” said Michigan AD Warde Manuel of the alliance’s academic pursuits. “That’s going to be critical long term to what we do.”

While name, image and likeness rights appear to be here to stay, new governance could come down to issues such as roster sizes, coaching staff sizes, eligibility issues and requirements regarding athletes making progress toward a degree. The alliance could draw a line in the sand on those issues. Of course, the way things stand for the future, the SEC could make its own policies.

Other sources said that antitrust issues could arise with a three-conference alliance. There is a fine line to be straddled in terms of potential collusion. An alliance between the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 would represent 60% of the current Power Five.

Sources reiterated that the 40 schools comprising the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 wouldn’t “boycott” the SEC and stand directly opposed to it, but their foremost goal would be to pursue “their own interests”.

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