On Tuesday afternoon, the conference commissioners from the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 held a press conference via Zoom to announce an alliance between the three conferences. ACC Commissioner James Phillips, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren and Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff spent just under an hour offering up scant detail about what this alliance actually entails while congratulating each other heartily after each answer.
Hope no one is playing a day drinking game every time a commissioner congratulates another for "saying it well."— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) August 24, 2021
Here is what the press release defined the alliance as:
The alliance – which was unanimously supported by the presidents, chancellors and athletics directors at all 41 institutions – will be guided in all cases by a commitment to, and prioritization of, supporting student-athlete well-being, academic and athletic opportunities, experiences and diverse educational programming. The three conferences are grounded in their support of broad-based athletic programs, the collegiate model and opportunities for student-athletes as part of the educational missions of the institutions.
I, unfortunately, sat through the whole press conference and came away with a few big questions and not enough answers.
Firstly, the three commissioners made it extremely clear that no binding contract had been signed by the three conferences or any of the 41 schools within them. Which, like, what?
"No signed (alliance) contract. Agreement among three gentlemen and 41 CEOs. There's no signed document and there doesn't need to be." -- Kliavkoff— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) August 24, 2021
These three men are sitting here and saying everyone has "looked each other in the eye" and that's why the Alliance will last without any binding contract.— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) August 24, 2021
This is the stupidest shit I've ever been apart of.
Kevin Warren starts off his answer saying that he's a lawyer! LMAOOOOO
Big Ten commish Kevin Warren: “If you have to go back and look at a contract that you signed, then you probably entered a deal with the wrong parties.”— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) August 24, 2021
This is, quite frankly, unbelievable. Either these three conference commissioners are the most naive men on earth or there is some sort of binding agreement that they didn’t want to get into today. College athletics (most notably football and basketball) are some of the most shady and back-stabby places in the country!
I can’t believe that an agreement like this doesn’t need multiple contracts!
Man, we're telling 20 year olds to get a contract to accept a hundred bucks for a tweet— Matt Brown (@MattBrownEP) August 24, 2021
but this can all be taken on faith?
During the press conference it was also brought up that increasing revenues wasn’t the main focus of the alliance either. Which begs the question: what IS the main focus of this alliance then?
Kliavkoff: "We did the alliance to protect the collegiate model. ... We were not focused on revenue when creating the alliance."— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) August 24, 2021
.@lainehiggins17 asks whether part of the scheduling plans for this alliance are to improve media rights revenue. Kliavkoff says there "may be residual benefits" for finances, but that wasn't the focus.— Amanda Christovich (@achristovichh) August 24, 2021
Kliavkoff did clarify his answer later saying that increasing revenues was a goal of the alliance, just not THE goal. I, uh, find that hard to believe.
The three commissioners also discussed major issues such as expanding the College Football Playoff, a scheduling agreement between the triumvirate and the future of the Big 12 Conference who, notably, are not involved in this alliance.
Here is what the press release had to say about scheduling:
The alliance includes a scheduling component for football and women’s and men’s basketball designed to create new inter-conference games, enhance opportunities for student-athletes, and optimize the college athletics experience for both student-athletes and fans across the country. The scheduling alliance will begin as soon as practical while honoring current contractual obligations.
Kevin Warren: “We are not going to interfere with any existing contracts. This is not about getting out of contracts and blowing anything up.”— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) August 24, 2021
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. In women’s and men’s basketball, the three conferences will add early and mid-season games as well as annual events that feature premier matchups between the three leagues. The three conferences will also explore opportunities for the vast and exceptional Olympic Sports programs to compete more frequently and forge additional attractive and meaningful rivalries.
As far as the Big 12 goes, the commissioners paid some lip service to how important it is. Warren seemed confident that Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will figure everything out and things will be just fine.
ACC commish Jim Phillips: “We want & need the Big 12 to do well. The 12 matters in college athletics. The Big 12 matters in Power 5 athletics."— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) August 24, 2021
Lastly, there was talk about the CFP and whether or not it should expand. For a group of three commissioners who desired to show the nation that they were a united front in college athletics, they sure gave three not so united answers.
Phillips basically said that the ACC had to do more research before they made a decision on whether or not Playoff expansion is good. Warren said the Big Ten is for it, but hedged his bets a little, while Kliavkoff said that the Pac-12 is “100-percent in favor of expansion” but that there are “issues on the margins.”
When hiring a new coach at a school, a lot of people talk about “winning the press conference” to get the new era off to a good start. The three alliance schools did not win the press conference, in fact they got their doors blown off. It will be interesting to see how things move forward from here and if this alliance even lasts a year, let alone the decades the three commissioners were mentioning during their presser.
Here are some final quotes from a pair of the decision makers from the Big Ten which will hopefully paint a more optimistic picture:
UW Chancellor and Big Ten Conference Council of Presidents/Chancellors (COP/C) Chair Becky Blank: “The Big Ten Conference has always prioritized academic excellence as well as athletic excellence for student-athletes. Today’s announcement reinforces the values of integrity, fairness and competitiveness among all members of this alliance and provides additional opportunities for our student-athletes to enhance their collegiate experience.”
“Student-athletes have been and will remain the focal point of the Big Ten, ACC and PAC-12 Conferences” said Warren. “Today, through this alliance, we furthered our commitment to our student-athletes by prioritizing our academics and athletics value systems. We are creating opportunities for student-athletes to have elite competition and are taking the necessary steps to shape and stabilize the future of college athletics.”