ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 Form Alliance in Response to SEC Expansion

ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 Form Alliance in Response to SEC Expansion
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By Dean Golembeski

Published on August 26, 2021

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In an effort to maintain balance as the Southeastern Conference (SEC) becomes more powerful, the Big Ten, Pac-12, and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) have formed an alliance to strengthen their voice in deciding the future of college athletics.

"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," ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips said in a news release posted to the Big Ten website on Aug. 24.

The alliance members say they will create new, marquee matchups for their football and women's and men's basketball teams. The scheduling of games will begin "as soon as practical while honoring current contractual obligations," the conferences said.

More importantly, power and control are at stake..

The three conferences, along with the SEC and Big 12 Conference, make up the Autonomy 5. They have the freedom to write their own rules within the NCAA. When the SEC decided to expand to 16 teams by adding the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma, it changed the current balance. With the alliance, however, it will be impossible for the SEC to control the rules process as the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC hold three out of the five votes within the Autonomy 5.

A Balance of Power at Stake in College Sports

That balance of power is critical as the conferences could decide next month whether to triple the size of the College Football Playoff to 12 teams. A meeting to decide that issue has been set for Sept. 28. The alliance members also could have a critical role in deciding the future of the NCAA, which has called for a special constitutional convention to be held no later than Nov. 15.

All of this takes place during what has been an unsettling year for college sports. Colleges and universities have had to adapt to the transfer portal, which allows college athletes to change schools.

They also have had to adjust to the NCAA's new name, image, and likeness policy, which allows athletes to make money off their names and images.

The alliance, which includes 41 universities across 25 states, is not a formal partnership. Instead, the conferences have agreed to "a collaborative approach surrounding the future evolution of college athletics and scheduling."

"There's no signed contract," Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff said. "There's an agreement among three gentlemen, and there is a commitment by 41 presidents and chancellors and 41 athletic directors to do what we say we're going to do."

SEC Expansion Plans Lead to Formation of the Alliance

The alliance came less than a month after Oklahoma and Texas said they would leave the Big 12 Conference for the SEC by July 1, 2025. The decision left the SEC poised to grow to 16 schools and, more importantly, upset the business of college sports by positioning itself to potentially secure a new and bigger television deal. Last year, the SEC reached a 10-year, $3 billion agreement with ESPN.

The Big Ten, Pac-12, and ACC are also wealthy conferences,featuring brand-name football schools like Clemson in the ACC, Ohio State in the Big Ten, and Oregon in the Pac-12. But with the alliance, the three conferences could command even more lucrative TV contracts in the future.

"Student-athletes have been and will remain the focal point of the Big Ten, ACC, and PAC-12 conferences" said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. "Today, through this alliance, we furthered our commitment to our student-athletes by prioritizing our academics and athletics value systems. We are creating opportunities for student-athletes to have elite competition and are taking the necessary steps to shape and stabilize the future of college athletics."

Feature Image: Bernhard Lang / Stone / Getty Images

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