The Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 are expected to officially announce their long-awaited alliance on Tuesday, according to Nicole Auerbach from Athletic and Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel and Dan Wetzel. The deal between the three conferences will focus on NCAA governance and college football programming, but it is believed the leagues will also try to be on the same page regarding the future expansion of the college football playoffs, Sources told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd last week.
The realignment between the three conferences has not been part of their discussions and will not be an issue addressed with the alliance, sources told Dodd. However, an important part of the alliance’s conversations focused on ensuring that the academic success of athletes is an integral part of the college sport experience.
“Some of the things we do on our own just have to stop,” said a senior official at a school in the potential alliance. “Some of this shit we’re talking about expanding to 12 [teams]. For two teams who [go all the way], that’s 17 games. We are going to talk about “these children are not professionals” and we are not paying them? I strongly believe in the academic value of what we do, but at some point it looks like professionals. … I strongly believe in the academic piece that we provide. “
The Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 have been actively engaged in discussions about forming a planning alliance for at least two weeks.
Why is the alliance necessary?
The alliance became a priority for all three Power Five conferences after Texas and Oklahoma moved from Big 12. to the SEC. The Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 talks have been described by CBS Sports as a “non-aggression pact” against the SEC after the Big 12 was destabilized following losses to the Longhorns and Sooners. This takeover tipped the scales in favor of the SEC in future collegiate athletics relationships.
College athletics as a whole is wary of the SEC and ESPN dominating… everything. The income of the Big 12 will drop by at least 50% with the losses of Texas and Oklahoma. It would serve ESPN well financially if the Big 12 were to go as that would be one less TV rights bundle to pay.
Even with the alliance, the SEC will likely retain its advantage as a conference with the most teams.
How will this affect the expansion of the playoffs?
Although a 12-team model has been proposed for the expansion of the PSC, there has been a significant setback to slow the timing of the increase in field size with moves from Texas and Oklahoma to the DRY. The structure, access, and value of an expanded playoff have yet to be determined, but given that SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey was a compelling member of the PSC expansion committee that proposed the proposal of 12 teams, it is not surprising that the other three Power Five conferences at full power want to press pause.
The Big Ten and the Pac-12 in particular might be interested in opening the CFP deal at auction once the scope is broadened. To do this, the current contract with ESPN will have to expire in 2026. Even if those in power agree on a wider scope, the alliance may have the power to delay its implementation until then. The next round of call for proposals widening meetings will take place at the end of September.
The Big Ten and the Pac-12 also intend to continue pushing for the inclusion of the Rose Bowl – in its traditional form – as part of any discussion of playoff expansion. Even without the alliance, these two conferences would support the game’s traditional date and time of January 1 at 5 p.m. ET with their teams competing in Pasadena, Calif.
Will there be a programming agreement?
If the Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 agree to play non-conference matches against each other, it would certainly improve some teams’ strengths and create some interesting showdowns for fans and TV networks. However, any programming element of a roster would not have an immediate impact in terms of TV revenue.
The Big Ten and the Pac-12 previously discussed a programming alliance in 2012. Talks ultimately broke down, but at the time it was reported that it would take at least five years before non-conference schedules can be adjusted accordingly.
A Power Five athletic director has speculated that it could take 10 years to unwind non-conference schedules. An example: Michigan faces Oklahoma in 2026 and Texas in 2027. Do the Wolverines want to add another Pac-12 or ACC Power Five game in those years and then play a Big Ten schedule?
Will the alliance have a great influence?
The Big Ten, the ACC and the Pac-12 want to be seen as a three-pronged entity that shares similar views regarding the governance of the NCAA at a key time with the association undergoing a revamp. A constitutional convention will be held in November to essentially deregulate college athletics. In the future, conferences will have more control over legislation. If three are grouped together, they could exert significant influence.
This means the alliance could have a huge impact – perhaps even more than the SEC – on what varsity athletics looks like off the field. The Big Ten, the ACC and the Pac-12 could – as a group – support a more conservative model like the one that exists today. The voting structure has not been worked out, but Power Five conferences currently enjoy a weighted voting advantage in the governance of the NCAA.
“I think that’s a big part of my perspective,” Michigan AD Warde Manuel said of the alliance’s academic activities. “It’s going to be critical in the long run for what we’re doing.”
While the name, image and likeness rights seem to be here to stay, the new governance could come down to issues like roster size, coaching staff size, issues of eligibility and requirements for athletes progressing to a diploma. The alliance could draw a line in the sand on these issues. Of course, as it stands, the SEC could set its own policies.
Other sources said antitrust issues could arise with a three-conference alliance. There is a fine line to be crossed in terms of potential collusion. An alliance between the Big Ten, the ACC and the Pac-12 would represent 60% of the current Power Five.
Sources reiterated that the 40 schools comprising the Big Ten, the ACC and the Pac-12 would not “boycott” the SEC or directly oppose it, but their main objective would be to pursue “their own interests.”