LOS ANGELES — The Pac-12, Big Ten and Atlantic Coast conferences are nearing an agreement to join forces to map the future of college sports, and an announcement could come as early as next week, a source familiar with the discussions confirmed to The Los Angeles Times.
The impending alliance, first reported by The Athletic, comes in response to the Southeastern Conference’s move to add the Big 12 Conference’s two powerhouse programs, Texas and Oklahoma. Fear quickly set in that the SEC’s bold strike to move to 16 teams would center too much influence in one of the “Power Five” leagues and lead to a wave of realignment similar to a decade ago.
This alliance featuring conferences that cover the entire country with behemoth brands such as Ohio State, Michigan, USC, Clemson and Notre Dame (the latter of which competes under the ACC banner in all sports but football) could theoretically squash those fears in one fell swoop.
If those conferences agreed to begin scheduling intriguing nonconference matchups exclusively with each other, there would be little need to go pillaging one another — or adding any of the remaining Big 12 schools — for an edge in upcoming media rights negotiations.
The Big 12’s omission in the alliance is significant and would place its eight schools in danger of losing their standing in a power conference. The Big 12 could elect to raid the American Athletic Conference or risk the AAC coming for some of its teams.
But this move would likely stabilize the conference makeup at the top.
While realignment has gotten the most attention since Texas’ and Oklahoma’s move to the SEC, this alliance has been made with broader goals in mind.
As college sports faces large looming questions about professionalization (currently in the form of name, image and likeness), the NCAA’s outdated governance structure (the association is planning a “constitutional convention” in November to assess big-picture priorities) and the proposed expansion of the College Football Playoff to 12 teams, the three aligned leagues want to make sure the SEC doesn’t have an outsized role in charting the way forward.
If the 41 schools in the Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC are as like-minded as they believe, they should be able to rein in any SEC aggression prompted by the addition of Texas and Oklahoma to move toward a dominant football “superconference” that intends to play by its own rules.
With this alliance, the Pac-12, led by new commissioner George Kliavkoff, will have gained more than any other conference during this wild summer, jumping fully ahead of the Big 12 in stature and guaranteeing its place at the big kids’ table going forward despite a decade of underperforming in football and men’s basketball.