Big Ten joins alliance, but what does it really mean?

  • Northwestern defensive back Brandon Joseph intercepts a pass intended for Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson in the end zone during the first half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game in Indianapolis in 2020. So what was the Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 alliance all about?

    Northwestern defensive back Brandon Joseph intercepts a pass intended for Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson in the end zone during the first half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game in Indianapolis in 2020. So what was the Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 alliance all about? Associated Press

 
 
Updated 8/24/2021 8:42 PM

The Big Ten got together with the Pac-12 and ACC to announce an alliance Tuesday.

There wasn't much more to it than that. There was a vague promise of a scheduling alliance between the three leagues, but no concrete information.

 

So what is the Big Ten fighting for, exactly? Mostly to keep the status quo.

And this was a decidedly Big Ten event, since ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips left his previous job as Northwestern's athletic director less than a year ago. The other speakers on the video news conference were Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren and the Pac-12's George Kliavkoff.

"(The alliance will) do everything we can to try to make sure college athletics looks similar to what it is today," Phillips said, "About the number of opportunities, the commitment to one another, the support of one another during really difficult moments, which we're faced with right now."

The primary "difficult moment" is Texas and Oklahoma preparing to bolt from the Big 12 to the SEC.

The move has huge ramifications for the remaining Big 12 schools (there are eight now) because without the league's two biggest draws, the Big 12 basically ceases to be part of the Power Five, the high level schools at the top of college football.

One could say Oklahoma callously threw its longtime conference mates off the lifeboat. But then again, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Texas A&M all left the Big 12 for other conferences, so maybe that's not a valid complaint.

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The SEC seems to have multiple goals in mind: Gaining more control over the college football world and maybe taking over the decision-making process from the NCAA. That would make sense. Why wouldn't the most powerful football schools prefer to set the rules instead of having them dictated by the NCAA?

It also whittles down the number of Power Five schools, which would mean a larger share of revenues for the football powers. And by taking the lead, the SEC ensures that if contraction at the top does occur, its weaker football links like Vanderbilt, South Carolina or Arkansas will still be included.

Phillips addressed the future of the Big 12 directly.

"We want and need the Big 12 to do well," Phillips said. "The Big 12 matters in college athletics. The Big 12 matters in Power Five athletics and our FBS group. So I can just tell you we'll be watching what occurs here."

OK, so the Big 12 matters. But it also sounded like Phillips was telling everyone the remaining Big 12 schools won't be absorbed into the Big Ten, Pac-12 or ACC. At least, not right away.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The SEC has the most football talent, but the Big Ten is still the powerhouse conference in terms of revenue. So the Big Ten's place in the football world doesn't seem threatened.

The concern that led to this alliance is what happens if Clemson, Florida State and Miami bail out of the ACC and join the SEC. What if USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington decide the rest of the Pac-12 is dead weight and begin to favor a football superconference where they'd keep more of the revenue?

Once the ball started rolling in that direction, then Big Ten heavyweights Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State might decide they have no choice but to join a superconference, run by the SEC.

The ACC schools might be locked in anyway by their television contract, which runs until 2036. But this alliance is designed to keep things the way they are, with no other schools getting tossed aside.

It's all a verbal agreement right now, though. So this alliance will work as long as no school decides it's time to get selfish.

"It's about trust," Phillips said. "It's about we've looked each other in the eye, we've made an agreement, we have great confidence and faith. ... If it takes (a written agreement) to get something considerable done, then we've lost our way."

All three commissioners were asked about the College Football Playoff. Warren and Kliavkoff said they favor expanded playoffs. Phillips said he wasn't sure. Memo to the ACC: Everyone's already tired of Alabama vs. Clemson.

Warren went a little deeper with his description of the alliance, referencing his son Powers, who is a grad transfer tight end at Michigan State this fall.

"I will forever be grateful to this environment of college athletics and I will do everything I possibly can," Warren said.

"We have a responsibility to our future generations to do what's right at the right time for the right reasons."

As long as the three conferences agree on what's right, there should be no problems.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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