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The Alliance Completely Falls Flat With No Concrete Plan

TEMPE, AZ - OCTOBER 29: The PAC 12 logo on the field during the college football game between the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Colorado Buffaloes at Sun Devil Stadium on October 29, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Buffaloes 48-14. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – College athletics is almost certainly a reactionary business, especially when it comes to realignment changes. Over the past decade, conferences have changed because of money and leagues scrambling to make subsequent moves after an initial expansion.

The latest example is how the SEC brought in Texas and Oklahoma, which will give that conference a lot more money by bringing in two of the biggest brands in college football. The remaining Big 12 programs aren’t that appealing to the other power conferences. With the SEC taking a huge swing in landing the Sooners and Longhorns, the Pac-12, Big Ten, and ACC are now left to make their own moves.

Adding any of the eight remaining Big 12 teams seems off the table, as there is no real added value from them. So, the next best move is to find a way to attempt to slow down the SEC in its agenda. One way to do that is to form an alliance between the remaining three power conferences — sorry Big 12, your league no longer belongs to this exclusive club.

The ACC’s Jim Phillips, Pac-12’s George Kliavkoff, and Big Ten’s Kevin Warren held a press conference, and these commissioners explained what this alliance wants to accomplish. It is clear it could have been an email. After thinking about it for a few days and really taking in the press conference, this whole thing is potentially a big fat nothing in the big picture of college athletics.

In theory, there are some really good thoughts and below are the talking points from the released statement.

  • Student-athlete mental health and physical health, safety, wellness, and support
  • Strong academic experience and support
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Social justice
  • Gender equity
  • Future structure of the NCAA
  • Federal legislative efforts
  • Postseason championships and future formats

KSLSports.com’s Scott Mitchell put it bluntly when talking about this agreement.

“This is all about football! We want to know what team is going where, and who is staying put and what is happening, that is all what this about,” Mitchell said. “I know all that stuff is nice and importing like social justice and I am not discounting that. This move was done because these conferences are nervous that there will be this massive shift and the music will start playing and all of these schools will try to sit down at a table and nobody wants to be left out.”

Creating a scheduling agreement was brought up as well and that is the most interesting thing to come out of this. However, the worst thing is that all three of these commissioners insisted that no signed contract is needed and that they trust each other.

“It’s about trust. We’ve looked each other in the eye and made an agreement,” Phillips said.

“There’s no signed contract,” Kliavkoff said. “There’s an agreement among three gentlemen and a commitment from 41 presidents and chancellors and 41 athletic directors to do what we say we’re going to do.”

One other absurdness item mentioned from the press conference was how money is not a priority in creating this alliance. KSL Sports Alex Kirry called them out on this lie.

“The dumbest thing that was in all of this was about revenue,” Kirry said. “The commissioners, ‘this is not revenue driven.’ Any person with a brain can look at this and say, ‘of course, you make these decisions based on revenue; of course you are trying to make as much money as possible.’ If you are trying to tell us about revenue and are not trying to protect your dog bowl over here, then you are lying to us.”

These commissioners do know that Texas and Oklahoma currently have a signed contract with the Big 12 through 2025 but that is not stopping them from leaving to the SEC, and likely before that Grant of Rights deal is over.

So, to say that these leagues will agree by looking into each other’s eyes like they are high school sweethearts and thinking this unsinged deal with no concrete plan will last is quite humorous. 

Being united is one thing but when some schools within this group start to disagree things will fall apart. One prime example is the College Football Playoff, Kliavkoffsaid that the Pac-12 is fully behind a 12-team playoff, but the ACC is not quite there yet as North Carolina and Clemson are not in favor of expansion. So, if these leagues are going to vote together as a group they will need all 41 on board, and this includes Notre Dame as they have a scheduling deal with the ACC for football.

So, there is already a divide among the group as the ACC commissioner wants to do more research on the matter.

Does this really matter to the SEC?

With these three leagues teaming up, it seems that they are targeting the SEC in some way to limit their influence in the sport. 

“What this really is, it basically said the SEC you are out and on their own and enemy No.1, and the Big 12, you are dead,” Mitchell said. “That is really what they said. It is clear that the SEC wants more money which is why they are bringing over Texas and Oklahoma will do that. Outside of money, what power is there to gain as the SEC is still one league that votes as a single entity but now has 16 teams in the league.”

Some think that expanding the College Football Playoff is the SEC’s idea. However, that SEC agenda in regards to a potential 12-team playoff is unclear. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has said he is fine with keeping the College Football Playoff at just four teams. 

Any expansion at six, eight, 12 or more would still help the SEC because the more at-large spots would almost for certain go to the SEC.

“First of all, we are not the conference that has been clamoring for college football playoff expansion. That’s come repeatedly from others, from commissioners, from presidents or chancellors, and universities’ athletic directors and football coaches, even in the media,” Sankey said on the Paul Finebaum Show in late July. “The call for college football expansion has been present, we’ve said, and I’ve said many times, it has worked, it is working, and it continues to work, and I’ve even said that subsequent to the identification of a format for consideration and we need to understand that’s exactly where we are in the process.”

It is the Pac-12 that really needs the help with more at-large options and conference champions getting included. Out West, the playoff invites have been few and far between for the Pac-12, so increasing the number of at-large bids plus allowing highly-rated conference champions in is a way to achieve that. The Big Ten doesn’t need help with playoff expansion and the ACC is in between due to the dominance of Clemson.

More playoff teams would create more revenue and maybe that is what the other leagues are afraid of if the SEC gets four teams in a 12-team playoff. Odds are high the playoffs will expand but 12 seems to be losing a little bit of steam, according to West Virginia Athletics Director Gorden Gee.

“I am now no longer because I think with this changing environment, we want to keep it very narrow and keep it so there is a lot of opportunity to reconfigure what we’re doing in athletics,” Gee said. “I think it is on life support now. I have one of the votes and I think it nearly needs to be unanimous and I’m not voting for it. I think the Big Ten will not vote for it and the Pac 12 will probably not vote for it either.”

With all of the conference realignment and uncertainty, it will be interesting to see what the College Football Playoff will ultimately look like in a few years. 

Scheduling agreement is the most interesting part

One idea that is the most interesting out of this is a potential scheduling agreement. However, this wouldn’t be something implemented right away. The Pac-12 contractually can’t go down from nine to eight conference games during its current media deal, plus there are future games scheduled that will not be adjusted because those are signed agreements.

This is where not having a signed contract comes into play in a negative way. Teams can schedule as they wish right now and there is no need to create this alliance to play each other in football or other sports. Perhaps down the line, there is a week or two where the Big Ten and Pac-12 schedule a slate of games with this alliance, and you better believe there will be a signed deal for those games.

Don’t get us wrong, seeing Utah being able to play Miami, Clemson, Ohio State, Michigan State, or other big name teams would be great, but there is the chance to play Illinois, Wake Forest or Syracuse. Playing new opponents is nice but some of these teams in these leagues wouldn’t really get the fanbases excited.

Also to consider is that these scheduling arrangements could be at least four or five years away from reaching an organized look and feel to it.

This united front looks nice from these leagues looks great but the end result falls flat with nothing official, and specifically, nothing actually agreed upon with a scheduling arrangement.

“I was so disappointed by this, I wanted so much more. The fact that this is an alliance but there is no agreement. We are going to shake hands with each other,” Mitchell said. “We are all here and have this united front and saying all the right things here. Our word is our bond, we don’t have an agreement but we have a handshake and a handshake should be enough. Anyone in the world today — this is unfortunate and saying this but it is true — especially in college athletics, your word doesn’t mean anything.”

There is some potential in all of this but the whole thing is lacking a vision. It all goes back to why have a press conference that literally has no concrete plans on how to go forward and pursue what the Pac-12, Big Ten, and ACC really wanted to achieve as a group.

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