Every offseason in college football is wild, but this one has seen some wholesale changes to the sport that not everyone saw coming. Between NIL, Texas and Oklahoma going to the SEC and general transfer portal stuff we’ve already had a busy few months. But now we have two new reports that came out on Friday that will throw us for another loop.
ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 to form alliance to rival the new SEC pic.twitter.com/sTnaOsUlKr— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) August 20, 2021
First, Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic ($) is reporting that the “Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC are expected to make a formal announcement about their alignment soon.” Auerbach notes that sources told her this isn’t just about football scheduling and television deals, but more of an overall philosophical alignment between the three conferences:
There are many administrators in the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC who believe in the collegiate model and want it to continue; even those who have enthusiastically embraced name, image and likeness reform don’t want to see college football become an actual minor league system for the NFL with a draft, player salaries and the like.
With the future of the NCAA (which I’ve stated before is a corrupt, useless organization that is only good at planning a basketball tournament) more in doubt now than ever before, schools and conferences are scrambling to make sure they aren’t left behind.
Matt Brown, of the excellent college sports newsletter Extra Points, had a post on Aug. 17 that discussed “institutional fit” in how conferences were, and continue to be, set up ($).
Institutional profile means more than just pure academic or research rankings, but I think it is absolutely correct to point out that counting stats…things like research rankings, faculty awards, reputation, etc…are part of that equation, and they can matter quite a bit. Athletic conference membership is not decided by coaches or athletic directors, after all, but university presidents and senior university administrators.
Brown’s thoughts align pretty well with what the Big Ten/Pac-12/ACC alliance is trying to accomplish. These three conferences want to create a large bloc of schools with similar goals and missions to try and offset whatever power the new-look SEC is going to have after the Longhorns and Sooners are on board.
The Big Ten is rich, established, and operates from a position of strength, so there’s little incentive to deviate from that identity, especially since it’s one that matters so much to so many administrators. If it ever expands, it’s not going to add West Virginia or Cincinnati, just like it isn’t going to add Case Western Reserve or IU-Kokomo. It’s going to want schools that look like their other schools.
The Pac-12 operates similarly. Most of those schools are academically selective, large research institutions. Being a Pac-12 or a Big Ten school tells you something about the kind of school that it is, and that’s language those schools use when recruiting professors or institutional branding.
It will be quite interesting to see what this three conference alliance ends up looking like because nothing has ever been done like this on such a scale. If it leads to more fun non-conference football match ups in the future, that would just be icing on the cake.
In the second bit of landscape changing news that came out on Friday, Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated is reporting that “NCAA officials are moving closer to an immediate expansion of the annual 25-person signing limit as a way for coaches to replace players they’ve lost to the burgeoning transfer portal.” Dellenger notes that it would be a temporary fix for this current recruiting cycle before the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee comes up with a permanent solution.
Here is what Dellenger’s sources say could be the new plan:
Under the plan, schools can sign 25 new players while gaining additional signee spots for every player who transfers out of their program—up to a certain limit. The extra spots would be based on the number of players who enter the transfer portal under their own volition and would be capped at a figure, such as seven.
For instance, a school that loses five players to the portal can sign 30 new players. A school that loses 10 players to the portal can sign 32 new signees, if the cap were seven. The replacement cap has not been finalized.
This move is deemed necessary due to the new one-time transfer waiver that allows athletes to not have to sit out a year as well as the fact that after this season, teams will be losing more players than usual since some seniors came back to school and took their extra COVID year.
Many schools are having trouble fielding a full 85-man scholarship roster and there is hope that the additional recruiting spots will help teams stay closer to that number as well as allow more high school players to join the ranks.
“When you start looking at where we’re headed with the transfer portal, there are two ways of looking at it,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck told SI in the spring. “The first singing day is like the draft. The second part is free agency, and that’s the transfer portal. You’ll see less and less people signing 25 high school kids.”