The ACC and Big Ten announced a partnership in October 2017, while the Pac-12 and SEC followed suit in December. These alliances will allow for more conference games to be played outside of the regular season, including neutral site matchups.
The NCAA football standings is a college football’s ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 alliance. The three conferences announced their plans to create a new playoff system in the near future.
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Senior Writer for ESPN
- Reporter for the ACC.
- In 2010, he joined ESPN.com.
- University of Florida graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Hale, David M.
- Reporter for the ACC.
- In 2012, he joined ESPN.
- The University of Delaware has awarded me a bachelor’s degree.
The commissioners of the Big Ten, Pac-12, and ACC announced an alliance between the three conferences on Tuesday. They didn’t provide much more in the way of specific future plans, however.
Kevin Warren, George Kliavkoff, and Jim Phillips spoke a lot about trust, stability, and safeguarding college sports’ futures, but the statement on Tuesday didn’t provide a clear way ahead on scheduling, realignment, or expanding the College Football Playoff.
Instead, the organization declared the partnership as a handshake deal with universal membership approval, based on a shared respect for academics, sponsorship of a wide range of Olympic sports, and the broader promotion of social justice, gender equality, diversity, and inclusiveness.
To put it another way, it’s a start. Nobody knows where things will go from here.
Afterward, one of the ADs said, “There’s an aura of collaboration.” “We have no idea what possibilities it could bring.”
What are the alliance’s objectives?
The term “stability” was used throughout the introduction, and although there was a lot of high language — from vague scheduling plans to big-picture goals like charting the destiny of the college model — the actual objective of this group is to steady a sinking ship.
While Phillips expressed his wish to avoid yet another round of conference realignment, Kliavkoff said that the Pac-12 is still contemplating expansion and would make a decision by the end of the week.
The college model’s stability is the most pressing problem. The absence of national standards on name, image, and likeness, the Alston case, the NCAA’s constitutional convention, realignment, and new television agreements are all part of a broader sense of turbulence in the collegiate scene, and the hope is that this alliance will slow down the pace of change.
“There has to be a starting point,” Warren said. “The [Power 5] was in a tumultuous condition. There was a great deal of turbulence. Three new commissioners have been appointed. The NCAA has taken a step back and said that it must assess everything from the standpoint of a constitutional convention. You have a CFP expansion that no one in the group associated with it was a part of. We have to deal with problems like name, image, and likeness, the Alston case, gender equality issues, and social justice issues. They’ll examine what occurred in 2020 and 2021, from the murder of George Floyd to COVID and the problems we’re discussing right now, in ten, twenty, or even fifty years. Someone had to take the first move, and I didn’t want to sit around and wait for others to make those choices for me in the Big Ten.”
Is this a simple handshake agreement?
It’s no surprise that these three commissioners’ main topic of discussion was trust. The lack of trust that followed Texas and Oklahoma’s choice to join the SEC was the catalyst for the formation of this alliance, and it’s also the reason why other conferences aren’t presently participating. The facts around the 12-team playoff expansion hasn’t changed, but “who knows about it has changed,” Kliavkoff quipped, a not-so-subtle jab at SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who helped create the structure while simultaneously negotiating with Oklahoma and Texas.
The “gentleman’s agreement” is more about the fact that no one wants anything to be official. For one thing, with antitrust lawsuit approaching, the Alston case is on everyone’s mind, and three conferences collaborating on the future of the NCAA in any official capacity would be a huge red flag. Furthermore, since there are 41 schools participating, any formal wording would almost certainly cause disagreement. The support is unanimous if there is no specific wording other than a broad agreement to keep discussing. The risk of backlash increases dramatically if specific text is on a page and signatures are connected.
What about cross-conference scheduling of major events?
That is, without a doubt, the ultimate aim. “We are optimistic about scheduling,” Phillips added, “because it will raise the national profile of all of our teams by playing from coast to coast, benefiting college fans throughout the country.” But, as for a timetable, no one was quite ready yet. The reality is that we may have to wait many years for that to happen. First and foremost, all three commissioners said unequivocally that they would not be tearing up current scheduling agreements. Many schools are tied into matchups for at least the next five years due to the way nonconference scheduling is done.
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said, “This is not about getting out of contracts and blowing everything up.” “This is about respecting those current commitments, but also about establishing connections amongst these three like-minded conferences as we look forward in terms of scheduling to see if there’s a chance to put together unusual matchups.”
“We’re just at the very beginning of this.”
Second, there are still unanswered concerns regarding Pac-12 and Big Ten conference scheduling, both of which play nine conference games. Currently, the ACC has eight teams. Warren and Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff both said that the amount of league games they play must be addressed in the future.
The third element in this equation is television. Though the commissioners said that money was not the primary motivation for their alliance, major nonconference matchups involving the three leagues’ teams can only benefit their current and future broadcast agreements, as well as enable them to branch out into other income sources. It’s wonderful if they can raise their national reputation by generating income, but it’s even better if they can do so while the SEC prepares to draw farther away in the money race.
Are the conferences on the same page when it comes to playoff expansion?
They agree that the talks should be “methodical” as they go towards September, when the CFP Board of Managers will meet again to discuss the proposed enlarged 12-team structure. The ACC has still to decide whether to accept the proposal, according to Phillips, but the Big Ten and Pac-12 remain in support of it. That isn’t to say they don’t want a vote on approval next month.
All three commissioners talked at length about the kinds of conversations that need to take place and the issues that need to be addressed, despite the fact that none of them were there when the plan was drafted.
In a Zoom call with ESPN following their press conference, the three commissioners made the most revealing remark regarding the playoff. “I believe people are focused on being serious and deliberate about this problem,” Warren remarked. “So I know the Big Ten’s position is that we’re still collecting information. By the time we go into that meeting on Sept. 28, we will be fully prepared. But I don’t believe we’re at the top of the turmoil in college sports. Anything we do moving forward will be a rubber stamp, and I believe everyone will examine their decision-making process critically.”
Phillips said, “There are still some unresolved issues there.” “That’s why I don’t believe anybody could declare definitely, ‘Hey, we’re ready to vote yes or no on it.’”
What does this imply for the realignment and growth of conferences?
The Pac-12 will make a decision on expansion by the end of the week, according to Kliavkoff, but it seems that none of these conferences will be snatching league members from each other. Not right now, at least. Though the “gentleman’s arrangement” between the three has received a lot of attention, Phillips was clear in his comments that he wants the growth process to go differently this time around throughout the landscape.
“In the history of collegiate sports, one conference expansion typically leads to another, and so on,” Phillips said. “To the three of us, the present climate in Division I, FBS, and Power 5 in particular had stabilized, and we saw this as an opportunity for a new path, a new endeavor that I don’t believe has ever been done before, and we thought it was the most suitable move at this time. I believe you’ll need a group that recognizes that growth doesn’t always imply shifting membership across numerous conferences in a short period of time.”
So, how about the rest of the Big 12?
Phillips stated this of the Big 12 on the one hand: “The Big 12 must succeed if we are to succeed. In collegiate sports, the Big 12 is important. In Power 5 sports, the Big 12 is important, as is our FBS team. So all I can say is that we’ll be monitoring what happens here.”
So why not include the Big 12 in this new partnership?
“There was a lot of volatility at the time we came together,” Phillips remarked. “Is the Big 12 going to be a unified unit? Will they attend another conference? Is it possible that they will lose members? What is the ultimate goal? And I believe the three of us felt secure in our own leagues. And I believe that is where the business would gain the most.”
So, what exactly does it all imply? Beyond the clichés and statements that Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will figure it out, the Big 12’s future remains uncertain. Nobody from the alliance is traveling to the Big 12 to play. That remains the task of persuading other Group of 5 institutions to join when their long-term prospects seem bleak at best.
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