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The ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 announced some sort of ‘alliance’ in principle today, presumably meant to insulate them against further conference expansion issues.
The three conferences released a wordy press release detailing their shared love of academia, social equity, and competition; a real masterclass in burying the truth under many layers of fluff and noise. In truth, there’s only one elephant in the room, and therefore one reason to form this little faux-Justice League: how to stay up to speed with the juggernaut that is the SEC.
Presumably the rough plan is to schedule more marquee non-conference games with each other, thus elevating their collective products for television investors.
According to the press release, the football scheduling portion of the alliance will feature additional attractive matchups across the three conferences while continuing to honor historic rivalries and the best traditions of college football.
The release goes on to frame the new scheduling component as an opportunity for student-athletes and new level of excitement for fans, both of which may be true. But the only reason any measures are being taken whatsoever is because the SEC added Oklahoma and Texas, both of which would have also been gladly accepted by ANY other conference given the opportunity. So now, with the SEC becoming a villain in the eyes of other conferences, the ‘Jim Phillips’ of the world are cutting off their noses to spite their faces.
“The ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 recognize the unique environment and challenges currently facing intercollegiate athletics, and we are proud and confident in this timely and necessary alliance that brings together like-minded institutions and conferences focused on the overall educational missions of our preeminent institutions,” said ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips. “The alliance will ensure that the educational outcomes and experiences for student-athletes participating at the highest level of collegiate athletics will remain the driving factor in all decisions moving forward.”
Translation: we’re going to water down our own traditions and step on our programs’ national reputations to stay relevant. True, USC playing Miami will be cool at first, but over time the non-conference alliance games will ultimately hurt the resumes of possible CFP contenders. The CFP is on the inevitable verge of expansion, and with it will come seats at the table for teams (and entire conferences) that haven’t been good enough to qualify often in the past seven years. In other words, college football as an entity itself is about to buoy every school’s media viability without the need to sacrifice anything.
The alliance may not be a bad thing for college football, but it’s strange and likely over-hyped nevertheless. When the dust settles, the SEC will still be producing a superior top-down product as compared to the other conferences, but the football postseason will celebrate every conference more equally than ever before. Why take steps toward a conference-less football landscape when they’ve been proven to add so much regional intrigue and interest over the years?