Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC Ponder Benefits of Alliance

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The commissioners of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten and Pac-12 have discussed how creating an alliance between leagues that span the country could provide both financial benefits and policy-making clout as the NCAA begins to hand off more responsibilities to conferences, as well as counter the power boost afforded the Southeastern Conference by pending additions of Texas and Oklahoma.

As reported by Associated Press columnist Ralph D. Russo, a scheduling agreement among the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 could lead to more frequent made-for-TV marquee games: Think Southern California-Clemson; Ohio State-Miami; Penn State-Florida State; Oregon-Michigan, while unlocking more media rights revenue and ticket sales.

Russo writes, "The Pac-12′s current TV deals with Fox and ESPN expire in 2024 and new commissioner George Kliavkoff’s job is to figure out how to increase both revenue and exposure for a league that has been falling behind its peers in both.

"The ACC has the opposite issue, locked into its exclusive deal with ESPN until 2036. New commissioner Jim Phillips is charged with finding ways to keep up with the SEC and Big Ten money-making machines in the absence of the bump that would come from going back on the market.

"The Big Ten’s current deals with Fox and ESPN are up in 2023. Commissioner Kevin Warren is in a more fortuitous position than his counterparts from the Pac-12 and ACC. The Big Ten’s value is comparable to the SEC’s. Still, there has to be some concern within the conference that the addition of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC no later than 2025 makes the Big Ten less relevant and lucrative."

An alliance would also blunt the power of the SEC, which is poised to become the nations first 16-member super conference no later than 2025, particularly as the College Football Playoff entertains plans of a 12-team format.

Per Russo, "Barely two months after the 12-team plan was unveiled, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced the conference was inviting in Oklahoma and Texas, crippling the Big 12 and creating a path to turning an expanded CFP into a mini-SEC tournament.

"An alliance between traditional Rose Bowl partners, the Big Ten and Pac-12, along with the ACC could be a way of containing the SEC’s growing influence over college football.

"The first step could be banding together to ensure the media rights for the new CFP format is brought to market instead of negotiating exclusively with ESPN. Unless ESPN can be persuaded to give up its window of exclusivity that might require waiting until the 2026 season to implement the 12-team format."

An alliance could also be the last defense against even more defections to the SEC.

"Finally, as the NCAA cedes power, conferences will take a bigger role in governance," Russo writes. "An alliance between the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 could prevent the SEC from setting an agenda the rest of the country is forced to follow if it wants to compete.

"In the long run, it could keep conference flagships such as Ohio State, Clemson and USC from deciding — the way Texas and Oklahoma did —- that the only way to compete with the SEC is to join the SEC."

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