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Short on the details but long on the philosophy, the alliance of Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 sends a message to SEC: Back off


Short on details but long on philosophy, the expected alliance of three conferences between the Big Ten, the ACC and the Pac-12 landed with some noise on Tuesday. The Leagues have revealed that they have a no-contract deal that’s sort of a response to the SEC being… the SEC.

Still in place, there is a growing general feeling that college football is just going too fast after Texas, Oklahoma and the SEC declared their intentions last month. Leading stakeholders immediately raised concerns about the expansion of the college football playoffs once these teams moved from the Big 12 to greener, more southerly pastures.

Now this resistance has a little more clarity. While an expansion of the CFP to 12 teams could eventually occur, several stakeholders told CBS Sports last month that the entire company needs to be redesigned. That means there likely won’t be any significant progress towards a 12-team slice at the previously scheduled September 28 meeting.

It was almost assured when the alliance’s three commissioners avoided providing direct answers as to whether they supported the expansion as proposed. By not answering this question, Kevin Warren (Big Ten), Jim Phillips (ACC) and George Kliavkoff (Pac-12) spoke about it. They hinted at the edges, but it’s clear the alliance is a cheer for the SEC.

“What we really need is for things to be more stable,” said Warren.

“There are problems at the margins,” Kliavkoff said.

“We haven’t made a final decision,” Phillips said.

This is the code to prevent the SEC from monopolizing the process. This has been the intention since the SEC shocked the world last month by removing Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12. As currently proposed, the SEC would have a notional chance of getting half the 12-team squad in the. during a given season. That must be what Warren said when he spoke of “turbulence” in varsity athletics.

Meanwhile, the alliance as defined on Tuesday is itself a bit on the sidelines. There were no details of a non-conference programming alliance. The parties did not sign a contract; they operate on a gentlemen’s agreement.

“It’s all about trust,” Phillips said. “It’s by the way, we looked each other in the eye. We made a deal.”

Confidence? Where has this led varsity athletics in the era of realignment?

There is a growing desire to maximize revenues from the expansion of the CFP, however long it takes. The alliance is one of them. That could mean spreading playoff weekends among different rights holders, like the NFL does. At this point, ESPN largely owned the exclusive rights to BCS and CFP – with the exception of a four-year window when Fox controlled the BCS rights from 2007 to 2010 – since 1998.

The current CFP contract has another five years. Until then, ESPN has exclusive trading rights. But the commissioners running the playoffs have leverage over those five years. More than one stakeholder involved in the process told CBS Sports that the commissioners could ask ESPN to open the contract to bidders.

The risk for ESPN of not opening the contract until 2025 could be costly. In five years, there could be other bidders with deep pockets, especially if the streaming giants take an interest. If he opens the deal now, ESPN might have more certainty about the cost of the new rights.

The risk for ESPN is to lose all or part of a college sports property approaching the NCAA tournament in annual value ($ 1 billion).

“I think there is a good chance that we had just finished the term [of the ESPN contract]”said a CFP source involved in the expansion process.” ESPN can sit back on its rights. You have to get them to agree to participate and allow someone else to come in. It was always a long way. “

Officials are past the point of fan outrage if the four-team squad plays out over the next five years. Meanwhile, the original $ 7.2 billion deal could be worth three times that amount. Fans were conditioned to a rapid change when a CFP press release in April said the fastest expansion could take place in 2023. It seems unlikely now.

Add to that the perception from some conferences that the SEC is taking de facto control of the sport. CBS Sports asked SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey last month if it was a conflict of interest that he was one of four people working on the PSC expansion while simultaneously striving to add Texas and Oklahoma to their league, which will improve their conference’s chances in these playoffs.

“No,” Sankey said. “There are a lot of checks and balances in the system. “

Two members of the alliance, who did not want to be identified, told CBS Sports that Sankey should have pulled out of the expansion process.

If the SEC agrees with the PSC and the SEC, will there be enough money for the Big Ten (whose contract expires in 2023) and Pac-12 (2024) to get market value increases? appropriate for their rights?

The value of the Big 12 fell by at least 50% when the SEC admitted Texas and Oklahoma. Does the Big 12 even exist when its media rights expire in 2025? The situation highlighted how college sports television is centered around a few big brands. It’s to the point that the same ESPN that held the Big 12 together in the last round of realignment – because Texas and Oklahoma stuck around – is the entity that helped destabilize it with the SEC ruling.

“Is this the SEC Athletic Association? A frustrated Power Five athletic director asked rhetorically. “Are they creating their own association of… 16 institutions?”

Perhaps this is where the alliance comes in. The three conferences continue to push their philosophical similarities, but at the heart of the alliance is the balance of power. The power to retain a shred of what was once the college (amateur) model while dealing with increased external pressure.

“We made the alliance to protect the college model,” Kliavkoff said.

Now, have someone explain what that model looks like these days, when the LSU quarterback can get a new pickup truck as part of a name, image, and likeness deal.

A non-conference scheduling agreement would basically be a measure to increase the strength of the schedule and strengthen the chances of teams being included in the MFF.

Just by forming an alliance, the Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 may have sent enough message to stop the conference realignment for now. It remains to be seen whether the three conferences will speak with one voice in expanding the CFP. However, it was mentioned more than once that the commissioners of these conferences were not involved in the process of expansion of the playoffs.

It’s also hard to question the credentials of the four who brought 12-team support to the table. Sankey, Jack Swarbrick (Notre Dame athletic director), Bob Bowlsby (Commissioner Big 12) and Craig Thompson (Commissioner Mountain West) were tasked by CFP presidents to begin the process in 2019 shortly after the National Championships This year’s CFP in Santa Clara, California. .

For some inside and outside the alliance, the whole process is seen as the last chance for college presidents to take control of big college sports. The ongoing effort to rewrite the NCAA’s constitution will run on a parallel track with the alliance, the playoffs, and realignment.

NCAA President Mark Emmert called in July for the decentralization of the association, giving more power to conferences. This allows for a confusing full circle. Power Five conferences fear the SEC is accumulating too much power. And now the NCAA CEO wants to hand power over to conferences.

That would fit in with this year’s dizzying streak of developments that have left the NCAA – and the presidents who oversee it – increasingly powerless. The Alston decision alone highlighted how every major NCAA decision is influenced by legal liability.

Forced into a corner, the NCAA largely abandoned its traditional amateurish model on July 1 when NIL debuted. These NIL rights will have two months next week. While administrators are frustrated with some of the high priced transactions, the competitive equilibrium has not changed. For now, varsity athletics can apparently live with the prospect of million dollar athletes.

The NCAA sent out a survey to members on Monday to get the first contributions to the November constitutional convention.

“This investigation will be a guiding post for us,” said West Virginia DA Shane Lyons, Constitution Committee member. “What the NCAA does well and what the NCAA doesn’t do well? Overall, what they do well are the championships…

This investigation must be completed by September 1. A new constitution could be in place by the January NCAA convention. The irony of some of those app cases that go on for years and the NCAA trying to clean their house in months has not been lost with some.

“It’s like spinning an aircraft carrier in a very small space,” Lyons said.

That pretty much sums up varsity athletics in 2021.

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