Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 Officially Announce Alliance Between Conferences

By Dan Hope on August 24, 2021 at 2:06 pm
ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 alliance graphic
Big Ten/ACC/Pac-12

The Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 are officially working together.

The three conferences announced in a joint statement on Tuesday afternoon that they have formed an alliance to work together on governance issues in college sports and future scheduling agreements.

Per the announcement, “the alliance includes a scheduling component for football and women’s and men’s basketball designed to create new inter-conference games, enhance opportunities for student-athletes, and optimize the college athletics experience for both student-athletes and fans across the country.”

“The scheduling alliance will begin as soon as practical while honoring current contractual obligations,” the statement reads. “A working group comprised of athletic directors representing the three conferences will oversee the scheduling component of the alliance, including determining the criteria upon which scheduling decisions will be made. All three leagues and their respective institutions understand that scheduling decisions will be an evolutionary process given current scheduling commitments.

“The football scheduling alliance will feature additional attractive matchups across the three conferences while continuing to honor historic rivalries and the best traditions of college football. In women’s and men’s basketball, the three conferences will add early and mid-season games as well as annual events that feature premier matchups between the three leagues.”

The announcement comes less than one month after the SEC announced it would expand to 16 teams with the additions of Texas and Oklahoma. That move prompted many questions about how the other conferences in college sports would respond, and the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 have responded by forming a united front. While Tuesday's announcement does not include any specifics about what future scheduling agreements between the conferences will look like, their agreement to work together should help ensure they remain among the power conferences in college sports, while the Big 12's future looks more uncertain than ever.

The alliance could potentially have a major impact on future college football scheduling, as Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel and Pete Thamel reported Monday that conference leaders have discussed an arrangement in which each football team from each conference would play one opponent from each of the other two leagues on an annual basis. Under that plan, the Big Ten could reportedly reduce its conference schedule from nine games to eight games with only two crossover games between divisions instead of three each year. Asked about that possibility during a press conference following Tuesday's announcement, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said that was something that will have to be evaluated.

It's likely to be awhile before any such plan goes into effect, however, given that the Big Ten has already set its conference schedules through 2025 and many schools within the conferences already have future non-conference games scheduled into the 2030s. Warren said the conferences have promised not to interfere with any existing contracts for games that are already scheduled.

More immediately, the conferences plan to work together to protect their interests in the ever-changing landscape of college sports. From the announcement:

The three conferences remain competitors in every sense but are committed to collaborating and providing thought leadership on various opportunities and challenges facing college athletics, including:

  • Student-athlete mental and physical health, safety, wellness and support
  • Strong academic experience and support
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Social justice
  • Gender equity
  • Future structure of the NCAA
  • Federal legislative efforts
  • Postseason championships and future formats

Specifically, the conferences are reportedly expected to push for delaying College Football Playoff expansion until the CFP's media rights can be bid on by multiple television partners, as ESPN will be the SEC's exclusive television partner in 2024 and would have exclusive negotiating rights to continue televising the playoff if it expands before the end of its current 12-year contract, which runs through 2025. The conferences could also propose changes to the 12-team playoff model that was recommended earlier this year, as the working group that constructed that proposal did not include representatives from any of their conferences.

There is no signed contract for the alliance between the three conferences, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said.

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