Tuesday saw the announcement of an alliance between the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC as it pertains to scheduling opportunities, working together on pertinent issues in college sports and more.
Everything you need to know about it can be summed up inside a statement that could have stood alone, but also needed an hour-long press conference for some reason.
The three conferences remain competitors in every sense but are committed to collaborating and providing thought leadership on various opportunities and challenges facing college athletics, including:
Student-athlete mental and physical health, safety, wellness and support
Strong academic experience and support
Diversity, equity and inclusion
Future structure of the NCAA
Federal legislative efforts
Postseason championships and future formats
The alliance includes a scheduling component for football and women’s and men’s basketball designed to create new inter-conference games, enhance opportunities for student-athletes, and optimize the college athletics experience for both student-athletes and fans across the country. The scheduling alliance will begin as soon as practical while honoring current contractual obligations. A working group comprised of athletic directors representing the three conferences will oversee the scheduling component of the alliance, including determining the criteria upon which scheduling decisions will be made. All three leagues and their respective institutions understand that scheduling decisions will be an evolutionary process given current scheduling commitments.
The football scheduling alliance will feature additional attractive matchups across the three conferences while continuing to honor historic rivalries and the best traditions of college football.
In women’s and men’s basketball, the three conferences will add early and mid-season games as well as annual events that feature premier matchups between the three leagues.
The three conferences will also explore opportunities for the vast and exceptional Olympic Sports programs to compete more frequently and forge additional attractive and meaningful rivalries.
This is all fine and good! These are the issues that should be focused on among the leaders in college football. But three conferences and 41 member schools is a lot to keep on the same page, right?
So there are contracts that are binding everyone to this? Nope.
Well, okay. So how can we guarantee everyone falls in line? Because they said they are going to.
Was this driven by money or a response to the SEC? They claim it wasn’t.
The three conference commissioners — George Kliavkoff of the Pac-12, Jim Phillips of the ACC, Kevin Warren of the Big Ten — sat at a virtual podium and threw every buzzword imaginable out there about synergy and collaboration and (insert term here) to describe their pinky-swear pact. And did so by claiming the SEC adding Texas and Oklahoma had nothing to do with it.
“What that did, that allowed all of us to take a step back, take a step forward, what will next 1-15 years look like in college athletics? I wouldn’t say it’s a reaction, but you have to evaluate what’s going in,” Warren said.
These schools have never needed a formal alliance to schedule games against each other. Two of the biggest non-conference games of the season pit Big Ten and Pac-12 teams together in Michigan-Washington and Oregon-Ohio State. Throw in the fact that all conferences will honor their current contracts and commitments and this might not be something that we see until years down the road anyways.
What this alliance ultimately boils down to is three conferences coming together to say they still want a seat at the table and that the superpowered SEC will not be alone in shaping the future of college sports. But there’s not a ton of substance here. Any of the schools or conferences could break rank at any time to poach someone else or be poached.
Tuesday’s announcement was theater no matter how the conferences spin it. Their commitment to addressing the issues they say they will is admirable, but we work in college sports. We know how easy it is to back out of commitments, especially with nothing binding other than a wink and a handshake.
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