KSL UNRIVALED

Should the Big 12, Pac-12 Combine Form An Alliance?

Mar 4, 2019, 2:57 PM | Updated: 6:11 pm
Utah Football - Rice-Eccles Stadium...
(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It’s no secret that the Pac-12 is lagging behind on the field and in television revenue compared to the rest of its Power 5 peers, so why not create an alliance between the Big 12?

This seemingly out-of-left-field idea would create a comprehensive scheduling agreement between the two leagues. According to the plan, every non-conference game would be against the other league with a championship game rotating between the Rose Bowl and AT&T Stadium.

This would remove the FCS vs. FBS matchups but also non-conference rivalries would almost for sure go to the wayside. This could mean no more BYU vs. Utah, Stanford vs. Notre Dame, USC vs. Notre Dame or Colorado vs. Colorado State.

The Utes could then potentially have a non-conference schedule against Texas, Iowa State, and TCU all in the same year. That would trump playing an FCS opponent and a team from a lesser conference, like the MAC, as two of its three non-league games.

While others wouldn’t mind losing the rivalry, a lot of fans would still want the Utes to play the Cougars. It would be a big deal if the two never played again in the regular season.

However, with the Big 12 and Pac-12 having a different number of teams there could be a workaround and protect those rivalries.

Who came up with this plan?

This idea was a brainchild of former Kansas State president Jon Wefald. He told Jon Wilner of The Mercury News that he was asked for ideas back in 2017 by West Virginia president Gordon Gee to strengthen the Big 12.

Wefald’s original idea was to try to get Arizona and Arizona State to join the Big 12, but then had an even bigger idea to then create marquee non-conference football content that no other league could replicate. The plan was outlined in an 11-page document called: “A Proposal to Create A Strategic Alliance Between The Big 12 And The Pac-12.”

“This alliance of 22 universities from the Great Plains to the West Coast would provide the vital content of big-time football games that dovetail nicely with the new developing platforms of information,” Wefald wrote in a lengthy document he sent to Gee.

Big time football games would be an understatement. Texas and USC famously battled in one of the greatest national championship games ever in 2005. Imagine the possibility of the Longhorns and Trojans meeting on a regular basis

Is this a good idea?

Conference realignment has already ruined a lot of rivalries, including BYU and Utah which took a break when the two split from the Mountain West. This idea would could possibly remove the rivalry once and for all.

Also, making a New Year’s Six game would get a whole lot harder for the teams involved. The Pac-12 has only qualified twice for the College Football Playoff since its inception in 2014, and the Big 12 has not fared much better with an 0-3 record by just one school, Oklahoma. Both conferences could stand to make a drastic change which would greatly benefit each side.

The strength of schedule would skyrocket by removing Group of Five and FCS teams. Should a team in this plan go 12-0, 11-1, or maybe even 10-2, it could still earn a playoff berth with a top 15 schedule. The Pac-12 already is at a disadvantage due to late kick times on a consistent basis and then there is the Pac-12 Network which is not widely distributed.

Even with the lower games between the Big 12 and Pac-12 games on that network, it could force the hand to provide wider distribution and higher payouts in the next round of negotiations due to  better game inventory.

KSL’s Unrivaled host Alex Kirry likes the theory behind this idea.

“Scheduling against these two conferences could actually be a great idea,” Kirry said. “Utah would play in its non-conference schedule could have Kansas State, Texas, and Oklahoma State in the same year. USC would play Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech, maybe something on those lines.

“You are talking about two of the Power Five conferences that geographically make the most sense to be able to combine there.”

Kirry’s co-host, Scott Mitchell, sees this is a brilliant move to help the Pac-12’s image.

“The Pac-12 is a PR nightmare right now. The whole idea that the league doesn’t have an identity or great football,” Mitchell said. “The national media is going to focus on [these games] and every single one of these early season games between these two conference will get national media exposure because these are good football games.”

Imagine this being a week of games in this alliance:

  • USC at Oklahoma
  • Texas at Utah
  • Oregon at TCU
  • Texas Tech at Washington
  • UCLA at Oklahoma State
  • Kansas State at Washington State

Not a clunker in the group and it would trump playing nearly anything else these teams normally would schedule.

Say goodbye to reaching the playoffs

There could be a downside to this plan, according to Mitchell.

“Here is why this is such a bad idea,” Mitchell said. “It is a guarantee that no team from the Big 12 and Pac-12 will ever get into the playoffs. Ever. It is too difficult.”

The Pac-12 already plays nine-conference games. That gives the league a guaranteed extra loss each season which can cause teams to miss out on bowl games by having a tougher schedule.

Increase the difficulty of that schedule to an all-Power 5 slate and it would lead to more losses. That could outweigh the benefits of more television viewers and money that come with this proposal.

After all, wins are what really matter.

Well, money matters too. Power Five schools typically like the luxury of playing seven home games each year to be able to pay its multi-million coaching staffs. Missing out on even one home gate per year could be a huge blow to some of these teams.

This proposal would eliminate a chance to play other inter-sectional games against the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, or any of the independents like Notre Dame, and in Utah’s case, BYU.

“I will say this sounds amazing as it sets up better football games. If this eliminates USC or Washington playing North Dakota State then I am for it,” Kirry said. “The problem is that there is the side of me that goes ‘what about the BYU and Utah game.’”

Mitchell’s plan is to not worry about losing those rivalries within the Pac-12 because there are only a few that are played annually. Plus, the Big 12 has only 10 teams so there would be some gaps in the schedule to still be able to play those rivals.

“Just keep the rivalries, there are only four. USC has this long-standing rivalry against Notre Dame, as does Stanford. Then you have Utah and BYU and then Colorado and Colorado State,” said Mitchell.

This idea of a super-conference sounds great with a better schedule and must- see television for fans.

However, this agreement will likely never happen. It’s just too ambitious and change in college sports is not usually known to go at a fast pace.

While it may be unlikely to happen, but it would be amazing to see the Pac-12 and Big 12 duke it out for conference supremacy in September.

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast.

 

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Should the Big 12, Pac-12 Combine Form An Alliance?