With the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns bolting for the Southeastern Conference by 2025 at the latest, the wheels of realignment got turning again over the summer. To some, this was the harbinger of college athletics more powerful conferences poaching the most desirable teams, leaving the rest to scrape together what they could to remain even remotely competitive.
Now though, the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten Conference and Pac-12 Conference announced a partnership to try and ensure that doesn’t happen.
The conference commissioners formally announced The Alliance this morning, categorized as a philosophical agreement on how college sports should be governed. In a press release, the conferences indicated they’ll be collaborating in various areas, including student-athlete well-being, future structure of the NCAA and the future of postseason championships.
In the same release, the conferences indicated each of the 41 university CEOs and athletic directors supported the partnership.
“Today is a historic moment but it is the beginning of a long journey of collaboration,” said Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff during a press conference.
The details of the future of football scheduling were not generally discussed, but the conferences indicated it would feature “attractive matchups ... while continuing to honor historic rivalries”. The conferences will also have a basketball scheduling partnership with some early and midseason games along with more regular scheduling of the Olympic sports competing against one another. Of note in this category, it appears the more immediate differences scheduling wise will be in basketball and the other Olympic sports as all future contracts for non-conference games for these teams will be honored.
What everyone is likely most interested in is the future football games and, given that most of these schools have very full schedules for the next few years, those games are likely to be more infrequent than many had assumed. For instance, the Washington State Cougars only have openings for FBS teams as things stand with nine conference games in 2025, 2028 and 2029 for the next decade.
“We are not going to interfere with any existing contracts,” said Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren. “This is not about getting out of contracts and blowing everything up.”
Kliavkoff also indicated during the press conference there is currently no signed document or contract between the conferences so, as of now, this is merely a handshake style agreement.
Knowing the difficulties that will come from scheduling any football games, the most immediate effect of this will be scheduling in basketball and the Olympics sports. Since those schedules aren’t completed until the few months leading up to the beginning of the season, it would be easy to put some marquee matchups on the schedule on a yearly basis. Whether this has an real, tangible effect on football scheduling moving forward remains to be seen since it will be nigh on impossible as things are currently structured.
What this all means moving forward is difficult to parse at this early stage. What this “gentleman’s agreement” does likely do is keep the other conferences from trying to poach schools from one another and prevent any of them from essentially taking a step backwards in relevance and further accelerate the destruction of college athletics as we know it. It’s probably worth being skeptical of this for now until we know more about what the conferences can do to make this work, especially when it comes to football scheduling.