While there are still details being worked out, Nicole Auerbach at the Athletic reports that we are closing in on the announcement of the ACC/Big Ten/Pac-12 Alliance - perhaps as soon as next week.
The full story, which is paywalled, goes into some more detail on some of the thinking behind this arrangement, but a few things stand out to me from a BC perspective:
- Out-of-conference scheduling is part, but not all, of the deal: The reports are clear in laying out that this is not merely a scheduling alliance. However, creating some sort of rotating or interlocking schedule between these three conferences has the potential to be a real boon in particular for schools like BC.
The dilemma BC faces in scheduling right now is that there’s not a lot of upside for programs with top 10 aspirations to schedule a program like BC - the Eagles are historically good enough to beat anyone on their day, but not enough of a power as to be a big reputation-building win. An interlocking schedule could bring the likes of Cal, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon etc. to the Heights from time to time, beefing up the entertainment value for the BC fan, certainly compared to the current scheduling model.
- Institutional alignment is key here: the three conferences are committed to the broad-based, amateur sports model: One thing that remains to be seen is whether college sports vaguely as we know them — with elite-level, broad-based sports, including women’s and Olympic sports, as well as the ‘amateur’ pay structure — will stand up in an age of superconferences and name/image/likeness rights.
The SEC’s power moves are clearly viewed by many institutions as a threat to that model. The ACC, Big Ten, and PAC-12 tend to have larger athletic programs and higher graduation rates than their mega-SEC counterparts, and seem unlikely to want to buy into a future that may involve blowing up the current model to narrowly focus on a more professionalized football product.
Whether this is good or bad overall is kind of up to you, but from a BC standpoint, this is certainly aligned with the institution’s goals when it comes to athletics.
- The key is leverage: The key to this whole deal seems to me to be about the leverage that comes from the unifying power of these three conferences and their associated brands. The SEC’s brand power outshines any other conference’s individually, but their ability to steer toward a more detatched ‘super league’ model that busts up the traditional college sports structure is weakened if the combined power of the Ohio States, Michigans, Cals, and Stanfords of the world are all unified. This is good news for BC, I think; a situation where all the top brands in college football hop on to a runaway super league train is probably one where BC would get left behind - but this kind of alliance would likely have staying power, so long as its top programs don’t get poached.
- Putting off expanding the CFP playoff: This is the part that seems to be bad news to me from a BC standpoint - The Alliance wants to push back the timeline on expanding the college football playoff, perhaps to get more TV bidders involved and perhaps to rethink the structure that was proposed.
The best thing for BC would be an expanded playoff, probably layered on top of a bowl season that has less differentiation between ‘high’ and ‘low’ bowl games. Under the current setup, where brand power is so important and there are no autobids, it’s easy to imagine a theoretical ACC champion BC being left out some day. BC (and other programs who aren’t going to get selected based on their TV rating or ticket-selling power) should certainly be an advocate for an expanded playoff and autobids.
The overall bottom line here from a BC perspective is that between name/image/likeness rights, the NCAA’s proposed constitutional convention, and this strategic alliance between three power conferences, these institutions are making a bet that they can make some governance tweaks and at least somewhat preserve big-time college athletics in a way somewhat resembling what exists now, and in a way that keeps BC with a seat at the table.
It will be interesting to see how the coming weeks and months play out, but this alliance seems like probably a best case scenario for the near/medium-term future for BC. We’ll keep you posted as things develop.