The Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 leagues may form an alliance in the coming weeks to resist SEC expansion.
According to CBS Sports, the Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 are expected to announce a long-awaited partnership within the next two weeks. For the time being, the alliance’s primary influence is expected to be on future NCAA governance. Realignment of the three conferences is not a topic of discussion at the moment.
After Texas and Oklahoma joined the SEC, the alliance became a priority. The talks between the Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 were billed as a “non-aggression agreement” against the SEC following the destabilization of the Big 12 following the Longhorns and Sooners’ losses. This power grab shifted the balances in future college athletics transactions in favor of the SEC.
Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic first reported that the alliance might be announced as soon as next week. This comes less than a week after CBS Sports and The Athletic revealed that the trio was actively discussing the formation of a scheduling agreement.
The structure, accessibility, and value of an expanded College Football Playoff remain to be determined. Since the relocations of Texas and Oklahoma, there has been considerable opposition to slowing the schedule.
“Some of the things we’ve been doing to ourselves need to stop,” a high-ranking official from one of the prospective alliance schools told CBS Sports. “Some of this nonsense, we’re considering expanding to 12. That’s 17 games for two clubs that [make it all the way]. We’re going to discuss how ‘these children are not professionals’ and how we’re not paying them? I am a great believer in the academic worth of our work, but at some point, it appears to be professional. I am a genuine believer in the intellectual work that we are presenting.”
That may be the alliance’s focal point. College athletics continues to be suspicious of the SEC and ESPN monopolizing… well, everything. With the loss of Texas and Oklahoma, the Big 12’s revenues will fall by at least 50%. ESPN would benefit financially if the Big 12 folded, as it would mean one less set of television rights to pay for.
Even with an alliance, the SEC’s edge as the conference with the most elite teams would very certainly remain.
A scheduling alliance between the Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12, which has been considered, would strengthen the schedule and produce interesting nonconference games, although any scheduling component of an alignment would have a delayed effect. In 2012, the Big Ten and Pac-12 contemplated forming a scheduling agreement. The discussions finally broke down, but it was stated at the time that it would take at least five years to change nonconference schedules.
According to one Power Five sports director, unwinding nonconference schedules could take ten years. Michigan, for instance, will face Oklahoma in 2026 and Texas in 2027. Is the program interested in adding another Power Five opponent from the Pac-12 or ACC in those years and then switching to a Big Ten schedule?
At the very least, the alliance wishes to be perceived as a group of like-minded individuals as the NCAA undergoes a transformation. In November, a constitutional convention will be conducted to effectively de-regulate college athletics. In the future, the conferences will exert greater influence over legislation.
Concerns have already been expressed concerning the composition of the committee that will make recommendations to that convention. Five members were added to the original 23-member committee in response to public outrage at the committee’s lack of representation. One reason the NCAA is relinquishing jurisdiction is that its oversight of college football, particularly the Power Five, has failed miserably. Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, is a proponent of decentralization of authority, in which leagues have a greater say.
The partnership has the potential to have a significant impact – possibly even more than the SEC – on how collegiate athletics is seen off the field. The Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 might together embrace a more conservative approach akin to the one already in place. Although the voting structure has not been finalized, Power Five leagues now hold a disproportionate vote advantage in NCAA governance.
“From my perspective, it’s a significant chunk,” Michigan AD Warde Manuel said of the alliance’s academic endeavors. “That will be crucial in the long run for what we do.”
While name, image, and likeness rights appear to be secure, future governance may hinge on roster sizes, coaching staff sizes, eligibility difficulties, and requirements for players pursuing a degree. On such points, the coalition may draw a line in the sand. Of course, depending on how things develop in the future, the SEC may adopt its own policies.
Other sources told CBS Sports that a three-conference union could raise antitrust concerns. There is a narrow line to be walked when it comes to possible cooperation. A merger of the Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 would account for 60% of the current Power Five.
Additionally, the Big Ten and Pac-12 vow to continue advocating for the inclusion of the Rose Bowl – in its historic format – in any future playoff expansion discussions. Even if the alliance does not emerge, the two conferences maintain the game’s regular date and time of Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. ET in Pasadena, California, with Big Ten and Pac-12 teams competing.
According to sources, the Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 would not “boycott” the SEC in terms of nonconference scheduling, but their primary purpose with an alliance would be to pursue “their own interests.”