ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 form alliance; future of college sports shifts

It’s a new era in college athletics. As the wheel continues to spin, a new friendships and organizations form. After weeks of discussions and speculation, it’s official: the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 have formed an alliance.

As expected, a formal announcement took place on Tuesday — with a joint news conference with commissioners from all three leagues, including Jim Phillips of the ACC.

Of course, these moves have to do with combating the SEC, which continues to consolidate power. That existential concern grew in recent weeks when Texas and Oklahoma, two Big 12 stalwarts and key money-makers, unanimously accepted an invitation to the SEC.

According to a joint release, the alliance was unanimously supported by the presidents, chancellors and athletics directors at all 41 institutions.

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

The media event was more about philosophical similarities of the conferences, which will work to collaborate on a variety of macro-issues: College Football Playoff expansion, NCAA governance concerns and football scheduling.

As far as the ACC goes, scheduling could be a thornier issue to navigate. However, it’s clear that this alliance will lean on future scheduling frameworks, which will serve as a means to create TV inventory and bond the three leagues. (The idea of various mid-season tournaments between the three leagues was floated by Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren.)

The conferences plan to honor existing contracts. There are no plans to make material alterations to what’s already been agreed upon. With that said, the conferences plan to add more games between the three leagues — on top of these previous scheduling agreements. There’s also no interest to increase the total number of games for football; each individual program will still have the flexibility to schedule outside of the alliance.

That last part is critical for ACC programs that routinely schedule games against smaller conferences or play an annual game against an in-state SEC rival, like Clemson (South Carolina). According to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN, a working group of athletic directors will oversee scheduling strategy. This group includes several ACC representatives: Bubba Cunningham (UNC), Dan Radakovic (Clemson), John Wildhack (Syracuse) and Carla Williams (Virginia).

Unsurprisingly, there’s a preference to from the commissioners to expand the College Football Playoffs. There’s too much money to be made.

At this stage of things, realignment has been at the forefront of the conversations, although that could change soon, per Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff.

For now, it’s just an agreement between three individual leagues — without a contract. The lack of a contract may call into question the binding of the alliance; however, all three commissioners remained adamant that this initiative can proceed without anything in paper.