What to make of the rumored Pac-12-ACC alliance

Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff fields questions during the Pac-12 Conference NCAA college football Media Day Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

One of the biggest developments on a busy Tuesday in the conference realignment world came later in the day, when reports surfaced that the Pac-12 and ACC were at least discussing some kind of alliance to bring stability and more money to members of both conferences.

It’s a worthwhile endeavor because, at this point, nothing is too outlandish, unreasonable or outrageous to consider.

But an alliance is an option, not an answer.

And no matter how far the conversations go, I just can’t see that path having legs.

Here’s why.

For starters, we just saw an informal alliance between the Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten fail miserably. That was more of a gentleman’s agreement than anything. And it had mostly to do with scheduling. But the idea was that the three Power 5 conferences would work together to combat the power move made by the SEC when it plucked Oklahoma and Texas away from the Big 12.

They didn’t even make it a year before one of them — the Big Ten — decided to devour the shiniest pieces in another, in USC and UCLA.

So save the alliance chatter for the message boards. Unless there’s a formal agreement and a contract, it’s probably not worth much. And even then, we’re learning more and more all the time that contracts can be broken.

One of the popular theories behind why the ACC would want to make such a move is to encourage/push its television partner, ESPN, to come to the table with more money. But we already know that the remaining members of the Pac-12 don’t carry as much value alone as they did with the two Los Angeles schools on board. Beyond that, ESPN does not have much incentive — if any — to even consider coughing up more dough with the ACC’s rights agreement in place through 2036.

File this one under the “it never hurts to ask” category, but don’t expect ESPN to actually consider it. If you’re the ACC and you can show the network a move that brings significant added value, then maybe. But even then they wouldn’t have to do it.

Beyond any of that, the biggest reason I don’t see the possible alliance as a viable move is because of the state of the college athletics landscape.

This much we know: If Notre Dame will go, the Big Ten will have them. And if that happens, it likely would trigger another set of falling dominoes that could include schools from the Pac-12 and almost certainly would include North Carolina joining the Irish in the Big Ten.

That, of course, would inspire the SEC to respond — if they had not done so already — and three of the more likely candidates for SEC expansion, should it happen, also currently call the ACC home, in Clemson, Florida State and Miami.

Why would any network be interested in ponying up more money if (a) the conference it’s paying remains on unstable ground and (b) the conference that’s asking for more, should further defections occur, would not even be worth its current rights deal down the road?

It wouldn’t. It won’t.

It was suggested to me on Twitter that the three power conferences on the outside looking in blow it all up and take the best of the bunch to form a new 20-team super conference while leaving the dead weight behind.

And while that draft would be super fun and could collect millions as part of a made-for-television, blowout event, that wouldn’t solve anything either because that new conference, whatever it’s called and whichever schools it included, still would have anywhere from 5-10 schools that had the potential to jump to the Big Ten or SEC if they were asked.

And let’s face it; we’ve reached the point where just about anyone who is asked would join the Big Ten or SEC in a second and never look back.

All of this underscores the one point that is most important here as it relates to the Big 12 Conference.

The longer they wait to strike — whether their moves work or not — the more time others have to find alternate solutions.

People from coast to coast are working on this around the clock, and while this Pac-12-ACC alliance might not be the answer that saves any of them, the one that does could be just around the corner.

It’s the Big 12’s job to make sure the Pac-12 and ACC never find it.


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