The ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences announced an official alliance Tuesday – a move that could impact the athletic programs at Arizona State and Arizona as well as the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.
“Despite the shifting landscape, there are some critical constants among many college athletics, and specifically among everyone of the 41 institutions in our three conferences,” said new Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff. “These constants include a resolute commitment to our student-athlete, a commitment to both academic and athletic excellence and a commitment to protecting that which makes college sports so special for our student-athletes, alumni and fans.”
The decision could pave the way for matchups appealing to Pac-12 fans, such as Arizona State-Ohio State or Arizona-Clemson. It also has the potential to give the alliance leverage in determining the structure of a 12-team College Football Playoff format, in how playoff games are divvied up among bowl games like the Fiesta and in television contract negotiations.
There is no signed contract or legal document to bind the alliance, as it operates under a gentlemen’s agreement. However, the conferences will join forces on critical issues in college athletics.
“It’s about trust,” ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said. “It’s about, we’ve looked each other in the eye. We’ve made an agreement. We have great confidence and faith.”
Among the prevalent issues within collegiate athletics the alliance hopes to address are athlete mental and physical health; strong academic experience and support; diversity; gender equity; future structure of the NCAA; and postseason championships and future formats.
In the wake of plans by Texas and Oklahoma to move from the Big 12 to the SEC by 2025, the new alliance between the three Power Five conferences will add much-needed leverage for the 41 institutions involved.
“I wouldn’t say this is a reaction to Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. “But I think, to be totally candid, you have to evaluate what’s going on in the landscape of college athletics.”
The three conferences’ similar philosophies could also point toward a unified voting block in future NCAA governances.
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 is still considering adding new members to its conference and will have a decision by the end of the week, Kliavkoff told The Athletic Tuesday.
Football teams in the Pac-12 and Big Ten currently play nine conference games each season, but the alliance could reduce that number to eight and add a game against one of the other alliance conferences. However, football scheduling is done years in advance, so change could take time.
With the support of the ACC and Big Ten, the Pac-12 may be headed toward solidifying a long-term media rights deal.
“To move to fewer games sooner than three years, we need to have partnerships with ESPN and Fox to do that,” Kliavkoff said. “Although I think there’s a compelling argument that the games we could replace those with, if they were in the alliance, would be very compelling and worth making that move sooner. We’ll work through that with our media partners and alliance partners.”
Depending on how the College Football Playoff expansion proposal unfolds, the alliance could also affect the Fiesta Bowl.
“The Pac-12 is 100% in favor of expansion of the College Football Playoff,” Kliavkoff said. “The work that was done by the committee to come up with the 12-team playoff is exemplary.”
It remains to be seen exactly when the three conferences will begin scheduling unique matchups attractive to fans and athletes, but current contractual obligations will be honored.
“The football scheduling alliance will feature additional attractive matchups across the three conferences while continuing to honor historic rivalries and the best traditions of college football,” a Pac-12 conference statement said.