Jul 22, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Big 10 commissioner Kevin Warren speaks to the media during Big 10 media days at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports
Someone gave three gentlemen bad advice.
That was my first thought following the press conference held by Kevin Warren, Jim Phillips and George Kliavkoff, the commissioners of the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12, on Tuesday.
The three gentlemen were announcing the official formation of an “alliance” between the three leagues looking to solidify their positions within the college athletics hierarchy after the SEC’s earthquake of a move to invite Texas and Oklahoma into its ranks last month.
What does this “alliance” mean for the immediate future of college athletics?
Well, that’s where the three gentlemen got some bad public relations advice when they agreed to do this press conference because the most simple way to answer that question is it means nothing to the immediate future of college athletics.
There are no legally binding signed contracts or agreements. There will be no new scheduling arrangements until existing contracts, such as future non-conference football games, have been fulfilled, with some such contracts stretching into the next decade.
If this press conference was anything, it was a declaration of alignment on the future of college athletics and standing together in the face of some landscape-shifting changes on the horizon.
Put more simply… this press conference’s only result is to prove something we all knew before it started — this is everybody else vs. the SEC.
“There’s no signed document. There’s an agreement between three gentlemen and a commitment from 41 (schools),” Kliavkoff said. “We did the alliance to protect the collegiate model.”
Big 12 fans were likely disappointed Tuesday morning when it was reported this “alliance” would be officially announced during a press conference several hours later and the league would not be involved, as had been previously reported over the last few weeks.
In hindsight, this probably is not something anyone should be disappointed to have been left out of.
The strength of this alliance quickly went from looking like the next major wave in the realignment of college athletics to appearing as more or less a strawman creation by a group of really smart people who felt they’d been made to look stupid with the SEC’s move last month.
It had a stronger vibe of “Well, they did something so we have to do something, too,” than anything of real substance.
The best proof of this comes in the lack of any sort of formal legal agreement between the three leagues.
The three commissioners are welcome to sit on their Zoom call and preach to the viewers about trust, loyalty and faith, but, as all college sports fans have learned in the last month, those three things will only get you so far in this cut-throat business comprised of people obsessed with finding a way to maximize their power and influence through the almighty dollar.
“It’s about trust,” Phillips said. “We’ve looked each other in the eye.”
While a person’s word might have meant something in these rooms before, it has become glaringly clear over the last decade that it rarely does anymore. Those eyes can quickly start to wander once a big green stack of cash is set on the table across the way.
This “alliance” does nothing to prevent Ohio State, USC, Clemson, Michigan or other high-profile schools within the leagues from jumping ship for whatever the SEC is cooking up next.
It was a pandering move made by the leagues to look like they’re doing something — anything — to keep schools in their leagues from suffering the same fate as the eight Big 12 schools Texas and Oklahoma left in the dust.
Or, in the eyes of some, left for dead in the future of Power 5 sports.
“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 5 athletics. I can tell you we’ll be watching closely what occurs here.”
Well, the Big 12 must not matter too much, Jim, considering it was completely left out of these discussions and was not included in your — for lack of a better term — ceremonial press conference on national television.
And, look, I’m not saying the Big 12 should be involved. There’s a lot going on here and the Big 12 has little — if any — decision-making power in its current form.
But, to be told that the league still matters and that people in this industry still care about the league or what happens to its eight remaining schools feels like a massive slap in the face when it has been more or less shut out of discussions.
Nothing being done here gives any indication that the Big 12 matters to anyone involved in making these decisions.
Kliavkoff stated it best when in the answer to another question he alluded to the idea of not listening to what someone says, but watching what they do.
Well, I’m watching, fellas, and what you’re saying and doing doesn’t seem to be adding up at this point.
Theoretically, it is possible there are things going on behind the scenes that could change my opinion. Maybe, the leagues are starting to work on plans to eventually welcome in at least some of the “Orphaned Eight” into their folds, as was oddly enough stated by Fox Sports college football analyst and former coach Dave Wannstedt during a radio interview Tuesday morning.
I find that hard to believe at this point, though, unfortunately.
And that’s because making moves like that would require actually doing something of substance rather than holding a press conference to announce an “alliance” with stated buzzword goals but little to no real timeline or substance to reach them.
“Hopefully this will bring stability to college athletics,” Warren said. “The last few months have shaken the beliefs of college athletics.”
Warren is absolutely correct with his latter point. As for the former, I have nothing else of substance to say.
Much like the three gentlemen.