The Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 on Tuesday announced an alliance that ultimately aims to "stabilize a volatile environment" throughout college athletics by collaborating on weighty issues facing the industry and agreeing to create a future scheduling partnership.
The scheduling component for football and women's and men's basketball "will begin as soon as practical while honoring current contractual obligations," but the decision-makers involved said the alliance was not driven by revenue.
While there is no contractual agreement between the three leagues as far as it relates to the alliance -- and nothing in writing that prevents them from poaching each other's teams -- the message conveyed Tuesday was that the creation of the partnership lessens any incentive for that.
"It was a moment in time for three new commissioners to be able to come in and say, this has a chance to really be a volatile time," ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said. "I think we all know, the history of expansion after one leads to another leads to another. Very rarely has there ever been a domino that's fallen that hasn't knocked over a few other subsequent membership changes.
"We had some friction amongst two of our really important conferences that make up the Power 5. And so, to try to get some stabilization to try to work through the next several years in a way where we collectively can work together is so critically important."
The three commissioners who created the partnership earlier this month -- Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff and Phillips -- spoke to reporters on a videoconference call in front of a blue background that already combined the logos of the three conferences.
The presidents, chancellors and athletic directors at all 41 universities unanimously supported the alliance, according to a news release.
While there were specific topics they agreed to tackle together -- including the future structure of the NCAA, social justice and gender equity issues, the future of the College Football Playoff and more -- the actual news was more abstract. The conversations and questions focused on the future, leaving little if any impact on what this actually changes today.
The alliance between the three leagues was brought about by a summer packed with sweeping changes. It began in June with a proposal for a 12-team playoff and snowballed with legislation on name, image and likeness, a Supreme Court decision that opened the door to athlete compensation, a desire to completely restructure the NCAA's governance and the pending move of Big 12 co-founders Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC.
"I wouldn't say this is a reaction to Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC," Warren said, "but I think to be totally candid, you have to evaluate what's going on in the landscape of college athletics. ... This is a year for seismic shifts, and I think it's really important to make sure that you are aware of all these different things going on, and make sure that from our individual conferences that we do all we can to make sure we protect our conferences and build strong relationships to make sure that we protect our student-athletes."
While the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 have grown stronger together -- and the SEC will become the first 16-team superconference -- the Big 12's future is still uncertain.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby declined to comment, but the ACC's Phillips said they want the Big 12 to survive.
"Let me put it directly," Phillips said. "We want and need the Big 12 to do well. The Big 12 matters in college athletics. The Big 12 matters in Power 5 athletics, and our FBS group. And so I can just tell you that we'll be watching what occurs here -- and obviously this transition isn't supposed to be taking place for another four years. This group in particular will be very interested to see what happens and to do everything that we can to try to make sure that, again, college and athletics look similar to what it is today about the numbers of opportunities, the commitment to one another."
The three commissioners continue to meet with Bowlsby and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey on weekly calls, and the 10 FBS commissioners will meet again in late September to discuss the 12-team playoff proposal with the 11 university presidents and chancellors who comprise the CFP's board of managers.
Phillips said the ACC hasn't made a final decision on where it stands, while both Warren and Kliavkoff expressed support for expansion with caveats.
"I'm a big believer in expanding the College Football Playoff," Warren said, "but also I'm a big believer in being methodical and doing our homework."
Kliavkoff said the Pac-12 is "100% in favor of expansion" but there are "issues at the margins" he wants to continue to discuss.
"All the criteria related to CFP expansion is on the table for discussion," Kliavkoff said, "and any component of that is up for debate."
Both the Pac-12 and Big Ten will consider at some point if they want to go from a nine-game conference schedule to eight games in order to open another spot for a nonconference contest as part of the alliance. The ACC already plays eight conference games, but has a partnership with Notre Dame, and also has its built-in rivalry games against the SEC.
"That's one of the things we will have to address at the appropriate time," Warren said. "We promise we're going to keep all of our existing contracts and games in order."
Kliavkoff said his league has a contractual commitment through the end of its media rights agreement to play nine conference games.
"To move to fewer games sooner than three years, we need to have partnership with ESPN and Fox to do that," Kliavkoff said, "although I think there's a compelling argument that the games we could replace those with if they were in the alliance would be very compelling and worth making that move sooner. We'll work through that with our media partners and our alliance partners."