The Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC commissioners made it official on Tuesday, announce an alliance between the three leagues. But otherwise they offered few concrete plans for the future.
Kevin Warren, George Kliavkoff and Jim Phillips spoke at length about trust, stability and protecting the future of college athletics, but Tuesday’s announcement did not provide a clear path forward in terms of planning, realigning or expanding the college football playoffs.
Instead, the group announced the alliance as a handshake agreement, with the unanimous support of its members, born of a mutual appreciation for academics, sponsorship of a wide range of Olympic sports, and a general pursuit of social justice, gender equality, and diversity and inclusion.
In other words, it’s a start. Where things go from here is up to everyone.
“There is a touch of cooperation,” said an AD afterwards. “We don’t know what opportunities this could result.”
What are the goals of the alliance?
The catchphrase that defined the entirety of this announcement was “stability,” and while the announcement contained a hefty dose of lofty rhetoric – from nebulous planning plans to large-scale goals of plotting the fate of the college model – the ultimate aim of this Group is supposed to stabilize a listing ship.
While Phillips spoke of his desire to avert another round of reorienting the conference, Kliavkoff said the Pac-12 is still considering an expansion and will announce a decision on whether to add teams by the end of the week.
The bigger problem is the stability of the college model. The lack of national guidelines too Name, picture and likeness, the Alston casewho have favourited NCAAs constituent assembly, Realignment, new TV deals – all of this is part of a bigger turmoil in the college landscape, and the hope is that this alliance can put the brakes on how quickly the change comes.
“Building for the future had to start somewhere,” said Warren. “The [Power 5] was in the river. There was a lot of turbulence. There are three new commissioners. The NCAA stepped back and said it must evaluate everything from a constitutional convention. They have a CFP expansion that wasn’t made up of either of us in the group that was involved. They have a name, an image and a likeness, the Alston case, gender equality issues, social justice issues that we have to grapple with. We will look back 10, 20, even 50 years, they will examine what happened in 2020 and 2021, from the murder of George Floyd to COVID and the topics we are talking about right now. Someone had to take the first step, and personally I didn’t want to sit around in the Big Ten and let other people make those decisions. “
Is it really just a handshake deal?
It is no coincidence that trust has become a key topic of conversation among these three Commissioners. The lack of trust that followed Texas and Oklahoma’s decision to join the SEC was the stepping stone for the formation of this alliance and the underlying reason other leagues are currently not involved. Kliavkoff even joked that the information about the 12-team playoff expansion hasn’t changed since the idea was first promoted, but “who knows about it has changed” – a not-so-subtle dig at SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, he helped shape the format and negotiated with Oklahoma and Texas at the same time.
But the bigger reason for the “gentleman’s agreement” is that nobody really wants this to be formal. On the one hand, the Alston case is in the foreground of everyone’s mind, and three conferences voting in some official capacity on the future of the NCAA would be a big red flag with impending antitrust disputes. In addition, there are 41 schools involved, and putting together a formal language would likely create some disagreement. If there is no specific language that goes beyond general consent to continue speaking, support is unanimous. As soon as a certain language is on a page and signatures are attached, the potential for blowback increases sharply.
How about planning marquee cross conferences?
That is clearly the ultimate goal. As Phillips said, “We are optimistic about the scheduling as it will raise the national profile of all of our teams by playing coast to coast, with college fans across the country benefiting from it.” But as for a timeline … no one has been there yet. The truth is we may have to wait years for this to happen. Initially, it was clear to all three commissioners that they would not dissolve existing delivery schedules. Because of the way non-conference planning is done, many schools are locked into games for at least the next five years.
“It’s not about getting out of contracts and blowing anything up,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. “This is about meeting those existing contracts, but also building relationships between these three like-minded conferences as we look forward to scheduling to see if there is an opportunity to come up with unique games that come together.
“We are really at the beginning here.”
Second, there are questions about conference planning with the Pac-12 and Big Ten playing nine conference games. The ACC currently plays eight. Warren and Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said the number of conference games they play needs to be addressed over time.
The third factor here is television. Although the commissioners said finances weren’t the only focus of their alliance, marquee non-conference games between the teams at the three conferences can only upgrade their existing and future television deals, and also allow them to venture into other areas to walk with other sources of income to understand . It’s great to raise its national profile, but even better to grow its revenue – especially as the SEC prepares to pull back further in the money race.
Are the conferences geared towards expanding the playoffs?
They are designed to be “methodical” in the discussions that will last until September when the CFP Board reassembles to discuss the proposed expanded 12-team format. Phillips said the ACC still has no position on whether to approve the plan, while the Big Ten and Pac-12 are still on expansion. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they want a vote next month.
All three Commissioners spoke at length about the discussions still to be held and the questions that need to be answered – especially since none of them was in the room when the plan was formulated.
The most telling comment on the playoffs came on a Zoom call the three commissioners had after their press conference with ESPN. “I think people are really focused on being thoughtful and very methodical about this,” Warren said. “So I know where the Big Ten are is that we are still collecting information. We will be prepared when we go to this meeting on September 28th. But I don’t think where we are in the current turmoil.” in college athletics. You know, everything we push will be a stamp, I think everyone will see through their decision-making process with critical eyes. “
“There are still some unanswered questions,” said Phillips. “And so I don’t think anyone could definitely say, ‘Hey, we’re ready to vote yes or no.'”
What does this mean for the realignment and expansion of the conference?
Kliavkoff said the Pac-12 will make a decision on whether to continue expanding by the end of the week, but it seems pretty clear that none of these conferences are going to woo league members away from each other. At least not now. Although much has been done about the “gentleman’s agreement” between the three, Phillips was pointed out in his remarks that the expansion process should be different this time in the landscape.
“In the history of college athletics, expansion from one conference has usually led to the next,” said Phillips. “For the three of us we felt the stabilization of the current environment in Division I and especially in FBS and Power 5, this was an opportunity for a new direction, a new initiative that I think has never been done before. I think you have to Have a group that really understands that expansion doesn’t mean you end up switching membership across multiple conferences in a significant, reduced amount of time. “
And what about the rest of the Big 12?
On the one hand, Phillips said this about the Big 12: “We want and need the Big 12 to do well. The Big 12 are important in college athletics. The Big 12 are important in Power 5 athletics and our FBS group, I can only tell you that we’ll be watching what happens here. “
So why not include the Big 12 in this new alliance?
“There was great instability when we got together,” said Phillips. “Are the Big 12 going to be together? Are they going to another conference? Are they going to lose members? What’s the final? And I think the three of us felt we had stability in our leagues. And that’s what the company is about.” I think would benefit the most [from]. “
What does it all mean? Aside from the platitudes and comments Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby will find out, the Big 12’s future remains precarious. Nobody from the Alliance is going to go to join the Big 12. That leaves an attempt to convince other schools in the group of 5 to come on board when their long-term future looks bleak at best.