The ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 are set to formally announce an alliance, which pending final approvals could come as early as Tuesday, sources told Yahoo Sports. The Athletic first reported the possibility of an announcement this week.
The Alliance will center on a shared vision for the future governance of college athletics. For now, the Alliance will mean the three leagues can, among other things, form a voting block that will blunt the growing influence of an expanded SEC. It also allows three leagues that consider themselves like-minded to gain voting power on issues as the NCAA’s influence diminishes.
Can you feel the excitement?
On the scheduling front, the idea is that each football team in the three conferences would play one opponent from each of the other two leagues on an annual basis. Sounds great, until you get into the details. The Big Ten and Pac-12 would evidently reduce their conference schedules from nine to eight in order to accommodate this. (The ACC is already at eight.) Notre Dame would count as an ACC team for this purpose. Even taking all of that into account, it seems like a bunch of guaranteed games would need to be bought out to make the numbers work. That ain’t gonna happen, so shrinking conference schedules is really the only way in the short term to open up inventory for the Alliance.
Ah, but the spite!
The new scheduling should create additional marquee games and perhaps increased television money, while potentially squeezing the SEC in non-conference scheduling.
Four ACC teams have annual games with in-state SEC rivals — Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia Tech-Georgia, Florida State-Florida and Louisville-Kentucky. Those games would continue, but there would be a decided lack of available non-conference dates for other SEC teams seeking major opponents.
Somehow, I don’t think Greg Sankey is losing any sleep over that possibility. As I’ve said before, I’ll wait to see which Alliance school is the first to turn down a $5 million pay day to face ‘Bama in a neutral site opener. Besides, if the SEC needs more big games, it can always increase the conference schedule; that’s what adding Oklahoma and Texas gives you.
What’s striking to me here is while the Alliance purports to be wary of ESPN’s influence, it’s adopting the exact approach Mickey already embraced that’s likely to diminish traditional passions for college football. Dropping a conference game so that Oregon State can face Georgia Tech is the kind of swapping regionalism for national appeal that ESPN has openly pushed since the CFP came into existence. Sure, there’s a shiny toy aspect to it that will drum up appeal in the short run, but it won’t take long for the viewing public to look for newer, shinier toys.
And that’s the thing. If you’re hungry for a national appeal for college football, the NFL is already there for you and will likely do a better job of it.
The irony here is that the SEC, whether it’s forced into it by the other three P5s or willingly accepts it, is looking like it will be the last regional holdout. My bet is that five to ten years from now, the Alliance is going to be comparing broadcast ratings between them and the SEC and wondering what went wrong.
As far as the rest goes, well, if the Alliance is that hung up about ESPN that they’re willing to forego playoff expansion for another few years, more power to them. It’s not as if the SEC is going to be shut out. And such a power play isn’t likely to win the three of them many friends between the G5 and Notre Dame.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention the Big 12 there. That’s because the one thing it appears the Alliance will accomplish in the short run is to kill the Big 12 off for good. The only question is how long Bowlsby’s conference clings to OU and UT to stave off complete collapse before 2025. Enjoy it while it lasts, fellas.
In the meantime,
When they say it isn’t about the money…