Today two of the most historic conferences within the landscape of college athletics announced a unique partnership.
"As other conferences continue to grow through expansion, we believe there is great merit in deepening the historic relationship between the Big Ten and Pac-12," said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany. "We believe that both conferences can preserve that sense of collegiality and still grow nationally by leveraging our commonalities in a way that benefits student-athletes, fans and alumni. This collaboration can and will touch many institutional undertakings, and will complement our academic and athletic missions."
"Through numerous conversations over the past several months with stakeholders from the Big Ten and Pac-12, we decided there would be great value in building upon the history and collegiality that exists between our member institutions, by initially committing to an increased frequency of play between our schools in all sports," said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.
At first glance I found this to be a little confusing. On the surface this just looks like formalized scheduling of games between the conferences. But this is being rolled out like it is a grandiose announcement. So it is somewhere in between an all sports Big Ten /
ACC Pac-12 Challenge and a merger of conferences with two leagues and a total of four divisions.
My guess is that this is much closer to just a unique scheduling of many mutual games between the two conferences. Clearly, beginning in 2017 there will be a football version of the Big Ten /
ACC Pac-12 Challenge. Between now and then there will be more and more games scheduled between the two leagues on the basketball court and the other common "Olympic" sports as early as the next academic year.
I do find it humorous that the respective commissioners are concerned with how this benefits the student-athlete. Cause I'm sure that is exactly what prompted this discussion. I'm sure Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was sitting at home drinking a single-malt one evening when he thought, "You know Larry, I bet those kids playing basketball at UCLA would love to travel to Minnesota to play basketball in December. What a great opportunity for those kids." They were also very concerned with the history and collegial-ness of the two conferences. This has NOTHING to do with the additional revenue this could mean for the two conferences. Whether it is selling the rights to these football and basketball games or what having these numerous cross-conference games would mean for the Big Ten Network and the soon to be broadcasting Pac-12 Network.
I have no problem with the Big Ten doing what it needs to do to increase it's revenue. A USC vs. OSU game sold to ESPN gets equally divided amongst Big Ten institutions (we get an equal slice of the pie!). But why is it so necessary to drone on about how great this collaboration is for the student-athlete. Tell me how much more revenue this will generate, don't hide behind you doing a good deed for fans, alumni and athletes.
But ultimately all I care about is what does this mean for the Gophers? Besides adding more money to the overall pie, it is going to be forced scheduling with Pac-12 teams. I am thrilled that we will have another BCS program on the football schedule every year, I believe this is a good thing. I will be very happy if we get to see two Pac 12 schools on the basketball schedule every year. Let's travel to Arizona St and host Oregon one year then go to UCLA and host Stanford the next. This is great for RPI and getting teams more ready for Big Ten play. I think the baseball team is another program that will benefit from getting to play more Pac-12 schools.
Unfortunately for football and to a lesser extent basketball this means that scheduling games against anyone from the Big East, SEC, Big 12 or ACC are going to be virtually impossible. With the expansion of the Big Ten schedule to 9 games also in 2017, plus a guaranteed Pac 12 game you just will not see another BCS program on the schedule. Like it or not, there is some value to hosting a MAC team and an FCS team to get your team a couple wins and to have a couple games to work out some of the kinks on offense and defense. You kind of need those two (or three) wins to get bowl eligible sometimes. One would hope that we will get to a place where bowl eligible isn't the only goal, but the Big Ten is arduous and adding 2 BCS opponents only adds to the brutality.
But this is still more than just a concerted effort to schedule more games between each others conferences. Statements like this make it seem like there is more on the table...
"Rather than go down the road of just trying to add members, we thought this was a way to keep who we were and an increased value for everybody,'' said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. "It doesn't mean you can't expand one day. It seems to us this is an intelligent way to get stronger and do so with zero collateral damage.''
Added Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, "It's a flexible approach to achieving some of the benefits of expansion without dealing with some of the other structural issues.''
This feels like it is something more but either they don't know how it is going to play out or they aren't telling us their master plan. I don't know and for now I don't care. I like the idea of getting a game or two of Pac-12 opponents on the basketball schedule. Maybe this arrangement strengthens the Rose Bowl bond and becomes another hurdle for a football playoff, that I don't like. So I "think" I like this arrangement, but I fear there is something lurking in this deal that I will not like so I'm withholding judgement.
The only thing I do know is that other conferences will follow our lead on this one. I expect within a year the ACC and Big East or SEC and Big 12 or some combination of those entities will have a very similar arrangement.