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There’s Another Alliance in Football, It’s Just at the Collegiate Level This Time

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The Alliance of American Football of the ACC, Big 10 and Pac 12 is official, with all three conference commissioners confirming the news at a virtual press conference Tuesday afternoon.

The ACC’s Jim Phillips, the Big 10’s Kevin Warren and the Pac 12’s George Kliavkoff announced the “ground-breaking” alliance in the joint press conference, with each touching on their gratitude to everyone involved in the alliance’s formation and answering questions from the media regarding the finer points of allying themselves with two other autonomy five conferences — along with hitting on the topic of the SEC and Big 12.

“Today is a special day,” Warren said. “I think what it does is signifies that there still is a lot of goodness in college athletics. This is an opportunity for us to come together in a strong alliance to work together, not only with the ACC, the Pac 12 and the Big 10, but also other conferences in college athletics.”

While the conference focused mainly on how the alliance will function moving forward and the moving pieces still needing to be worked out — with all three commissioners noting this is only the beginning — the SEC and Big 12 were, of course, brought up.

“There is turbulence right now in college athletics, there are things that we need to address,” Warren said. “We need to have strong leadership, we need to work together and I’m looking forward to having an opportunity to work with Jim and George and our respective leaders on our campuses and in our conferences to figure a lot these issues out — and also to work with other conferences around college athletics.”

With Oklahoma and Texas jettisoning to the SEC amid a contentious exit from the Big 12, many were left wondering just how college football’s first “super-conference” impacted the decision to align.

“The SEC had an opportunity in accepting Texas and Oklahoma to their conference,” Warren said. “I think what that did is allowed all of us in collegiate athletics to maybe take a step back and take a step forward to really start evaluating what will the next one, three, five, seven, 10, 15 years look like in college athletics?”

However, according to Warren, the alliance isn’t a reactionary move to the SEC expansion.

“I wouldn’t say this is a reaction to Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC, but I think, to be totally candid, you have to evaluate what’s going on in the landscape of college athletics. With all the things that we are facing, which we’ve talked about on numerous occasions, and where we really are, this is a year for seismic shifts.”

For Phillips, it was more of reading the writing on the wall and not wanting to fall into a cycle he’s seen happen so many times before. With the shared desire for stability, an alliance was the most logical solution.

“In the history of college athletics, one expansion of a conference has usually led to another, to another and to another,” Phillips said. “And to the three of us, we felt the stabilization of the current environment across Division I and FBS, and Power Five, in particular, we felt this was a chance for a new direction. A new initiative that I don’t think has ever been done before and felt that that was the most appropriate step at that time.”

While further expansion has been discussed with the Big 12 (more on the Big 12 to come) in a state of limbo and other whispers of schools being poached from other autonomy five conferences, mass expansion would only cause more complications in an already complex situation.

“We’re better together than we are separate, but I think you have to have a group that really understands that expansion doesn’t mean that you end up changing membership across multiple conferences in a significant, shortened period of time,” Phillips said.

That, of course, leads to the Big 12. With the SEC serving as a super-conference and the new alliance of the other three autonomy five conferences now in place, the Big 12 is left in the dark.

Warren expressed his respect for Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, highlighting his track record of success with Iowa and Stanford, before saying he feels like Bowlsby will do what is best for the conference.

“A lot of these issues that we’ve been dealing with are issues that have been on the table here for really weeks and not months,” Warren said. “So, a lot of this stuff is fresh and new, but I’m sure Bob will figure things out and do what is right for the Big 12.”

With the Big 12’s stability basically already over lasting until the end of the current TV deal, Phillips said the transition wouldn’t be taking place for another four years. However, he said the new alliance will be very interested to see what happens.

“We want and need the Big 12 to do well,” Phillips said. “The Big 12 matters in college athletics. The Big 12 matters in Power Five athletics and our FBS group. I can just tell you that we’ll be watching what occurs here.”

While Warren complimented the remaining Big 12 schools as “a lot of fine institutions” athletically and academically, the future of the eight schools remains murky at best. In echoing his colleagues’ statements, he expressed his hope for stability.

“Hopefully this will bring some much-needed stability to college athletics, and I also think what it will do is now it will allow people to understand where everyone else stands,” Warren said. “Because some of the events over the last couple of months have kind of shaken the foundation of the beliefs of college athletics.

“Hopefully this will allow other conferences to be able to kind of work through their various issues and figure out what’s best for them in the future.”

Touching Points

The Alliance, for a lack of better name, is being formed as a way to provide stability for the 41 member schools now a part of the alliance, along with college football in general.

The major issues the alliance hopes to address, among others, are: joint scheduling, the unprecedented NCAA governing issues such as NIL rights and and the upcoming College Football Playoff expansion.

Scheduling 

While scheduling will be a priority in the future, there isn’t a plan to disrupt already scheduled games and match-ups. With games and tournaments already in place, like ACC-B1G basketball, B1G-Pac 12 volleyball scheduling and Oregon playing Ohio State and Washington playing Michigan this season.

Scheduling between the three conferences is already taking place.

There is no intention to increase the number of games played, with options to play games against SEC, Big 12 and Group of Five teams still on the table.

CFB Playoff 

Warren and Kliavkoff both unilaterally support CFB Playoff expansion, with work currently going into gathering feedback from all levels of the B1G and Pac 12 in determining the next step forward.

Additionally, Warren expressed the need for thought to the length of the season, health and wellness of student-athletes, academic schedules, stadium availability and thoughts to network partners as areas where homework is still needed.

Phillips said the ACC still hasn’t come to a decision, wanting to vet the situation completely. The ACC is collecting data points from as many areas of the conference as possible.

Process

According to the three commissioners, there wasn’t one man who paved the way for this alliance. It was “three motivated commissioners who felt the time was right to come together” over the last month or so.

While there is no binding legal document, Kliavkoff said there doesn’t need to be a signed document. The other two commissioners echoed his sentiments, speaking to faith and trust in each other.

With Tuesday’s press conference just the first step in the trio’s ground-breaking alliance, only just the beginning, more information will continue to come to light as decisions are made and ironed out.

As for the Big 12, West Virginia in particular, it’s simply eight schools on the outside looking in. There wasn’t any breaking news for WVU or any Big 12 schools and that’s not surprising. The big news is still likely to come in the weeks and months ahead. Possibly even this week with Kliavkoff telling The Athletic that expansion decisions will come this week.

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