College sports are about to get another jolt and it could be crazy.
The conference realignment carousel was fired up again when Texas and Oklahoma announced they were moving to the SEC a few weeks ago. At long last, it appears a few power conferences have made their countermove. The Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC will soon announce an "alliance."
From the scant information we now have, this triumvirate would essentially decide to work together instead of attempting to poach members from each other. The three conferences view themselves as more alike than any others when it comes to athletics and the academic standards of their 41 combined member institutions.
While the immediate impact of this alliance would almost certainly involve scheduling a ton of matchups between the conference's teams, it could also lead to combined bargaining power in TV contract negotiations. Essentially they would work to block the SEC from becoming a dominant superpower in the college athletics space. Instead of individually fighting for clout, the conferences will combine to do so.
While this is almost certainly the right move for all the conferences involved, it will be fascinating to see how it all plays out. There are massive regional and cultural differences between the conferences as well as divergent priorities in certain areas. But, frankly, it's the only viable option left to counter the SEC.
Several weeks ago there were rumors that a few Pac-12 schools (led by USC) could be joining the Big Ten. It would have given the B1G access to the LA market and at least one true national brand to add to its conference. But logistically, such a move made virtually no sense for USC, given the arduous travel schedule its teams would have had to endure by joining the Big Ten as a full-time member. That goes for any teams of the three-conference alliance jumping to another. A partnership involving all three conferences makes far more sense.
It's worth noting, the Big Ten and Pac-12 have been longtime partners around the Rose Bowl, and the Big Ten and ACC have held a basketball challenge since 1999. Academically, 27 of the 41 member schools belong to the Association of American Universities, which is a group of leading research schools. Meanwhile, a few of the non-AAU members are also top universities in their own right, led by Notre Dame.
The main issue facing the three-conference alliance will be finding a market to gain more revenue. The SEC is currently sucking up all the oxygen in the college sports room right now. These three leagues combining could be a long-term play to create better matchups and improve the quality of teams across the board. In the end, that could lead to more cash being spread around. High-profile football matchups will almost certainly be the first consequence of this agreement.
The alliance should be formally announced soon. What happens after its formation will be fascinating to watch.