Most everyone in college football spent their July 4 weekend talking, texting and attending meetings about what will happen next in the conference rescheduling and what every school and league can do to protect or protect themselves in the future. maximize.
The move revealed on Thursday that: USC and UCLA join the Big Ten and so decimating the Pac-12 has led to panic and confusion.
What was a Power Five six months ago with a lucrative, fair playoff plan on the table is now a Big Two (Big Ten, SEC), with no post-season plan and just about anyone looking for a way to survive.
Here, after speaking to dozens of sources, is what every league should reasonably be doing going forward. “Reasonably” is the operative word here, ie “Add Alabama” is not an option.
Also understand this: The format of the college football playoffs after 2026 is unknown. While in the past all 10 conferences and Notre Dame had to unanimously agree to the format, that is no longer the case.
The Big Ten and SEC can essentially create whatever they want and everyone else will have to go along with it. The power of the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 has been significantly reduced, if not eliminated. That $1 billion, 12-team, six-auto-bid proposal that was turned down in January but now looks like heaven probably won’t come back.
With that in mind…
Get a TV deal before membership is snatched away by other leagues.
The Pac-12 made that much clear with an announcement on Tuesday that: the board of directors had voted to “authorize the conference to begin negotiations on the next media rights deals immediately.”
The Pac-12 is ready to be picked. Each school would follow USC and UCLA to jump to the Big Ten. Oregon and Washington have been particularly aggressive in their contact.
However, the Big Ten is in no rush. It wants figuring out the plans of Notre Dame (the Irish will likely only participate in a conference if their play-off entry is severely restricted or eliminated).
The Big 12 would take the entire Pac-12, or almost the entire league, but has also focused on selling itself to Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah as a good and stable fit. Sure, those schools could stick to the Pac-12, but it would knowing Oregon, Washington, Stanford et al. would jump at the first chance.
To buy time, the Pac-12 needs a media rights deal that locks up the other 10 schools for five, seven, ten years.
It won’t be nearly as lucrative as it was with USC/UCLA – an estimate by Portland radio host and former columnist John Canzano dropped the Pac-12 deal from an estimated $500 million a year to $300 million. Still, it would be something. Otherwise it would stop the bleeding.
For stability’s sake, the league may need to add San Diego State, Boise State or UNLV, even if they don’t add value. Or maybe it could just be the Pac-10 again and hope the next College Football Playoff still offers automatic bidding.
This could still be a good competition…if it can stick together.
In the days last summer after Oklahoma and Texas announced they were going to the SEC, the remaining Big 12 schools looked for another conference to have them. No big one did. However, that group rejection had a positive effect by stimulating the other eight schools.
They will add four teams in 2023: BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF. There is room for more. Now they may be able to add them from the Pac-12, which will provide stability.
Oregon, Washington, et al. would be the best path, but just adding the Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State foursome would be huge. Those schools fit and while the Big 12 would still be way behind the eighth ball and would have to wish for automatic playoff bidding, the competition would be stronger.
Take Notre Dame.
The Irish are the belle of the expansion ball. The Irish could probably join any conference. Big Ten membership is definitely on the table.
The odds of the Irish joining the ACC for all sports seem slim, but maybe it’s not impossible.
Notre Dame Football has five games a year with the ACC, and most of the school’s other teams are full ACC members until 2036. Notre Dame loves to play games in the Southeast, where the population, especially for recruits and prospective students, is growing at a much faster rate than the Midwest. It also offers games along the east coast.
There’s a lot to like about the ACC, and the full addition of Notre Dame would allow for a rework of its underrated television deal with ESPN. Get the Irish and the ACC is in a much more lucrative and stable place.
Of course, Notre Dame knows all this, which is why she could easily fall prey to a desperate conference asking for a disproportionate amount of revenue. The ACC should pay too much for Notre Dame – or pay more than the Big Ten. It may be necessary to guarantee $100 million a year to get them (among other concessions) and that may not make economic sense. It certainly wouldn’t make any political sense.
Why would Clemson agree to pay more at Notre Dame when it now earns more of the pie?
There aren’t many good options for the ACC, which hangs on its long-running media rights deal and not much else.
Take Notre Dame.
The Irish add a lot of value. It would also strip NBC of its college football product, thus making that network even more desperate to bid on the remaining portions of the Big Ten television package.
The Big Ten once rejected Notre Dame, at least in part because of anti-Catholic prejudice. However, things changed decades ago, and the idea that the Irish have managed to thrive as independents at the geographical heart of the league is a point of frustration.
The Big Ten can offer a huge media deal, stability, playoff access and as close to a national conference as possible, including games on the East Coast and Los Angeles.
It’s also packed with elite academic institutions — with the addition of USC and UCLA, 15 out of 16 member schools are in the top 100 in the US News and World Report rankings (sorry Nebraska) and eight out of the top 50.
However, the Irish don’t want to jump. They cherish their independence and believe that their ability to plan nationally is the key to recruitment.
Remember, Notre Dame will play in 21 different states over the next four seasons (plus a naval game in Ireland). Then understand that Marcus Freeman has made 26 pledges since he took over as head coach in December 2021. Those recruits come from 16 different states. Can you do that in a conference? It wouldn’t be easy.
Notre Dame’s biggest fear is a playoff system that requires almost no conference membership, or it’s just an SEC/Big Ten affair. (The SEC could oppose such a thing because it doesn’t want to drive Notre Dame to the Big Ten).
If the Irish have access to the play-off, they are likely to remain independent. They can make up for the income difference.
If Notre Dame is a no — or “not now” — then the Big Ten could expand to 20 and take over the West Coast by adding Washington, Oregon, Cal, and Stanford. However, it is uncertain whether this would generate sufficient additional money.
The Big Ten is fine with being at 16 for the time being. This competition is powerful. It has made its big step and has nothing to add.
Unless it can get Notre Dame.
The Irish in the SEC? Yes, it sounds ridiculous and it probably is. But if Notre Dame has to participate in a conference, why not the biggest and best? The idea of an SEC outpost on the Indiana-Michigan border would drive the Big Ten crazy. And Notre Dame is the only asset there is for the SEC.
Of course the Irish would have to agree to join a league with lower academic schools than the Big Ten, but money can change your mind.
It’s far-fetched to say the least. The SEC would probably do better to make sure Notre Dame has a cutout for future playoffs and thus keeps it from the Big Ten. But right now, it’s the only move that makes sense for the SEC until the ACC breaks up and Clemson, Miami, North Carolina, the state of Florida and Virginia become available.
Or he can just hang out and count his money and national championship rings.