The B1G and PAC 12 Have Commitment Problems

By Chad Peltier on July 19, 2012 at 6:00p
It's personal Alliance politics is tricky business

Last week the Big Ten and the Pac-12 dissolved their scheduling pact, citing the number of conference games as the primary issue. 

The news release explained: 

A great effort was made by both conference staffs to create football schedules that would address the variety of complexities, but in the end, we were just not able to do so. While everyone at the Big Ten is disappointed by the news, we look forward to continuing the historic partnership that we have with the Pac-12 and to working together on other matters in the future.

I'm sure there were scheduling difficulties, but there's no doubt in mind that if both parties really wanted this to happen, then it would have. 

Why this matters: Alliance Politics 

The Big Ten and the Pac-12 have been historically tied together through the Rose Bowl and from the outside at least, it looked like this deal would really benefit both parties. 

It's a real shame because it was good for the fans and good for making championship-caliber teams. It was also important for the Big Ten in long-term competitiveness.

As Ramzy wrote at the time:

While the Big XII, Big East, ACC and SEC have meetings on top of meetings on top of meetings to determine their positions, strategize, sometime synergize and - in one case - continually measure its overinflated and oversigned football phallus - Delany expanded his conference’s reach into every single time zone with a phone call and almost no investment


Every move those four other conferences have made since that quiet announcement in December has been a futile attempt at catching up with what B1G and PAC pulled pulled off without even having to declare projected revenues.

Ramzy captured exactly how important this was for the Big Ten: not only would it produce great football for fans, competitive games to forge championship teams, but it also made money. Lots of it. 

Sure, a nine-game Big Ten schedule is better for perception and strength of schedule than another MAC team, but a Pac-12 game against Oregon, USC or Stanford would be even better. 

But there's definitely a Delany vs. Slive competition element here too, and you have to imagine Slive smiling right now. 

The Big Ten knows that the most powerful conference in terms of quality is undoubtedly the SEC, but Delany has been playing a shrewd game, making money while the conference grows and makes a bid with power parity. 

A long term alliance with the Pac-12 is classic balancing behavior against the giant SEC - the two might tie their futures together in this game of conference politics. 

Why it fell apart: commitment problems 

Our ally?What could have been 

Unfortunately, it was not to be.

While scheduling difficulties played some role, a long term alliance commitment was probably the greater hurdle. 

James Fearon discusses these commitment problems:

"Second, rationally led states may be unable to arrange a settlement that both would prefer to war due to commitment problems, situations in which mutually preferable bargains are unattainable because one or more states would have an incentive to renege on the terms"

Essentially, the Big Ten and Pac-12 likely had mutual fears of the other side reneging from the agreement. The future balance of power between the conferences is largely unknown. 

While the SEC looks like the biggest kid on the playground now, who knows about 2015 or 2020? The Pac-12 is certainly gettg stronger, with USC, Oregon, and Stanford all looking like playoff contenders annually. What incentive do they have for scheduling a strong B1G team? 

Further, why would lesser teams in either conference want to get matched up and committed to a team of unknown strength - especially when athletic directors can schedule individual home and home games themselves? It becomes a sovereignty issue within the conference.

There are then two levels of commitment problems - that between the conferences and that between the member schools d the conference. 

What the b1g should do 

The competition between the conferences (and between Delany and Slive) remains. With the linked goals of becoming increasingly competitive for national titles as well as simply making money, the Big Ten can do several things:

It would be smart to still maintain SOME relationship with PAC12 at this point, even if the two are not as intimately connected as previously hoped. High quality out of conference matchups (and wins, more specifically) are good for percetion of the conference and for TV money.

On that note, and as Jason mentioned on Twitter, “@11W: Umm, Georgia. It's us, Ohio State. We should talk about getting together again.”

Mark Richt (who I really like) is used to playing (and getting beaten by) Urban - the game commentators would have a field day with this matchup. 

And as Tom Orr wrote, "It is entirely reasonable to ask OSU to play 2 good (home-and-home) opponents OOC each year. Stagger home/road games so you have every year.Hopefully the new playoff system/selection committee encourages that kind of scheduling for everyone."

If you don't do it for the fans, do it for the playoff. At the conference level or the school level, just schedule high quality out of conference matchups.



Comments Show All Comments

gravey's picture

The question I haven't seen answered (and I haven't been looking hard for) is:  If a school like Ohio State forgoes a MAC home game every other year (and the revenues that come with it); do we make it back in TV revenues from a match up with USC (or Washington State?)...  Is there that great a difference in TV revenues to account for the loss of gate reciepts etc. from an additional home game?  If the extra TV cash isn't enough; and the increased chance of a loss to a quality opponent is there, this whole thing seemed DOA.

johnblairgobucks's picture

any guess on what an OOC home game vs a MAC opponent, brings to OSU in terms of revenue?  Tickets, parking, refreshments, shirts/hats/jerseys.   $1,500,000?  better than a mid level Bowl Game payout, without the travel expense.  Doubt any TV contract would pay OSU more,either.

Nappy's picture

I get the concern regarding not knowing the strength of a given opponent years down the road, but how is that really any different the how OOC schedules are made now?  Most big time BCS vs BCS conference games are scheduled 8-10 years in advance. I just dont see the big difference.  
My initial thought is they would make the match ups based on the final standings. Say USC and OSU both finish in 1st place in 2016.  Schedule home and homes for 2017 and 2018.  Then re-seed and do it all over again.  Maybe make a few adjustments so OSU and USC aren't playing 4 years in a row.  But that way Indiana doesn't get stuck with Oregon and maybe gets a shot at Utah or something.  I dunno, does this make sense to anyone else?

I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face

buckeyedude's picture

I think the extra ratings a game vs. a quality PAC 12 opponent brings outweighs the negatives. 
I always looked forward to the marquee OOC game every year during the Tressel era(USC, Texas, etc.). I also think it helps with recruiting. You can't just play cupcakes in the pre-B1G OOC. Maybe they can get away with that down south, but not up here.
 If Delany and the PAC 12 can't do it, then Gene needs to earn his money and get at least one good matchup every year before B1G play starts. It's a no-brainer.



Menexenus's picture

Boo!  This is bad news indeed!  The B1G and Pac12 should have worked harder to make this happen.  That's one LESS feather in Delany's cap...

Real fans stay for Carmen.

bux_booster's picture

Perhaps they needed to hold off a bit as another conference realignment maybe coming, good bye Penn State?

703Buckeye's picture

Penn State isn't going anywhere. Remember, Penn State is much more than football and the B1G is much more than athletics; Penn State is too valuable to lose.

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

Riggins's picture

Why wasn't the option of the Pac 12 going to an 8-game conference schedule like the B1G discussed?  Then you could have 8 conference games, an interleague game, and 3 other OOC games for each league.

703Buckeye's picture

The PAC-12 has had a 9 game conference schedule since they expanded to 10 30+ years ago; no way will they get rid of that.

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter