A few weeks ago, when the ACC, Big-10 and PAC-12 proclaimed their Alliance, I said I would wait until I had more information before commenting. The announcement at the time referenced a “verbal agreement” so there was nothing to read/judge/interpret. I assumed such a document would emerge soon after so that there could be meaningful analysis and questioning. That has yet to happen.
So, let me spend some time commenting on the Alliance as I understand it now. Clearly, this Alliance – whatever form it takes down the road – is a response to the SEC absorbing Texas and Oklahoma out of the Big-12. Texas is a big money program; Oklahoma is a powerhouse program; what remains of the Big-12 is a shambles. [Aside: It is horrendously politically incorrect to make anything resembling a positive reference to former President Trump’s comment about “shithole countries,” but the football remains of the Big-12 comes close to qualifying as such.] I think it speaks loudly and clearly that the Big-12 will fade to irrelevancy as soon as Texas and Oklahoma depart when you note that the three conferences forming the Alliance did not invite the remaining Big-12 teams to join their Alliance.
So, what might the remnants of the Big-12 do on their own. Here is what is left of the Big-12 – in alphabetical order lest anyone think I am ranking the relevance of any of these programs:
- Iowa State
- Kansas State
- Oklahoma State
- Texas Tech
- West Virginia
Yes, I know. Two schools are leaving the conference and only 8 remain; yet they called themselves the Big-12. Clearly, the conference organizers need a bit more focus on STEM. Whatever…
If that cadre of teams is to “stick together” with any hope of football relevancy – and that is where the big money is in 2021 – they need to poach teams from other conferences. That will not be easy because if you look at the lineup here, it is not an overly enticing group to join. So, here are 4 possible schools the remnants of the Big-12 might court:
- Boise State: It seems to me that Boise State has outgrown the Mountain West Conference. Thanks to its iconic “Smurf Turf” field, Boise State has become recognizable far beyond the borders of Idaho.
- BYU: They have been playing an independent schedule and may just have tired of trying to find a dozen meaningful games for every year on the calendar.
- Cincinnati: This has been a program on the rise in recent years, but it has been overlooked because lots of folks think they “don’t play anybody”. The 8 teams left in the Big-12 may not be Murderer’s Row, but it is a more prestigious group than the median level of the American Athletic Conference where Cincy resides now.
- UCF: This may be a stretch, but UCF is a big school with a big following. [Student body is more than 60,000 students.] They have had about 5 years of very successful football in the American Athletic Conference and – like Cincinnati – may be looking to play a slightly more prestigious slate of opponents.
If the “Big-Remaining-8” could pull off these annexations, it can probably survive as a stand-alone group. If the “Big-Remaining-8” fail to do that or something nearly equivalent to that, I think they are doomed.
Back to the Alliance announcement… It seems to me that if the three conferences are serious about doing whatever it is they perceive they need to do to “counter the SEC,” they need to figure out how they are going to do mutual out-of-conference scheduling to the point where SEC teams will not be able to find attractive games outside their conference. There were no implications along those lines from the announcement of the Alliance nor have there been rumblings about such a thing in the intervening days. Normally, one thinks about “alliances” as groups that work together on mutual interests, and it seems to me that the only expressed mutual interest here is this one:
- We are not the SEC and we do not like the SEC because they are going to make a lot more money than we are.
Is that enough to hold together a group of about 40 universities? According to the Big-10 Commissioner, Kevin Warren:
“Hopefully this will bring some much-needed stability in college athletics. I also think what it will do is allow people to understand where everyone else stands. Some of the events over the last couple of months have shaken the foundations of college athletics.”
If that sort of rhetoric brings clarity to you, I tip my hat to you. Here are my reactions to that sort of statement:
- Two schools choosing to change conferences – – effective about 5 years from now – – “shakes the foundations of college athletics?” Really?
- Meanwhile, three conferences of about 40 schools banding together does not shake any foundations? Can you explain any of that?
- I have no idea where the 40 schools in the alliance stand on anything, yet you say this allows “people to understand where everyone stands.” WTF?
One thread of analysis that runs through all this cloudiness is that somehow the Alliance will halt – or at least slow down considerably – the momentum to expand the CFP from 4 teams at present to 12 teams as has been proposed for the future. Since I think twelve are too many teams, I hope the Alliance can achieve that end, but their logic escapes me. The logical thread goes like this:
- If there are 12 CFP teams, the SEC might wind up with 6 of the 12 slots and other conferences would feel “left out” and/or “disrespected”.
So, explain to me how all the teams in the ACC feel when there are 4 slots currently in the CFP and the only fully-committed ACC team within hailing distance of an invitation is Clemson. Same with the Big-10 schools other than Ohio State. And the PAC-12 is usually left out of the picture entirely’ so, how do they benefit from keeping the number of teams at four?
At this point, I am wont to say that we need to stay tuned because there must be more information forthcoming – – but it has been a while since the conference commissioners held their rhetorical gabfest and nothing has happened yet. About 50 years ago, Peggy Lee had a #1 hit record entitled, Is That All There Is? Maybe someone needs to play that song for these commissioners the next time they stand in the same zip code with a microphone…
Finally, let me close with a slightly modified version of a common adage that seems appropriate here:
- If something is not worth doing, it is not worth doing it well.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………