Monday Rewind: is 'The Alliance' benefiting the Pac-12 in any way, shape, or form?
Welcome back to the Monday Rewind. Let’s dive in.
A faulty alliance
The College Football Playoff sitting at four teams for the foreseeable future does no harm to the Big Ten. That league had a team in the national title match in January 2021. It needs nothing to remain among college football’s elite.
An expanded CFP would no doubt help the ACC in the longterm, but until a second team emerges (Miami?) as a clear top-15 squad year in and year out to challenge Clemson, a restricted field does the ACC no harm. It’s still a conference dominated by Clemson and a “bad” Clemson season was 10 wins.
The CFP field staying at four only hurts the Pac-12 in “The Alliance.” And yet this week the Pac-12 voted with Alliance members to say no to an expanded field ahead of the CFP’s media rights expiration in 2026. The field will stay at four through 2025. What the hell is the point of “The Alliance,” anyway?
Mississippi State president Mark Keenum, the chair of the CFP Board of Managers, told Sports Illustrated that an 8-3 vote with the Big Ten, ACC, and Pac-12 serving as the nays shelved expansion. To expand the field, the vote needed to be unanimous.
We’ve been wondering for months what tangible benefits “The Alliance” would yield, and it turns out the only real purpose so far has been to block something almost everyone wanted.
There are a few possible scenarios that could have played out, but it seems unlikely the Pac-12 was willingly anti-expansion considering a month ago the league issued a statement saying “we’re good for anything,” and then after news broke Friday, commissioner George Kliavkoff tweeted “I share the disappointment felt by many college football fans today. I look forward to working collaboratively with other Commissioners to deliver a football playoff format that is more inclusive and balanced.”
The Rose Bowl is a clear and obvious obstacle. It’s a game that continues to have an outsized amount of influence on the way Kliavkoff and Warren operate; juxtaposed this season by key Ohio State stars like Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave opting to sit out the game.
Was it purely about satiating the Rose Bowl? That seems unlikely. If one bowl game holds up expansion, the blowback would be fatal.
Was it about revenue distribution in a new CFP environment? That’s certainly an easy thing to point to after the fact.
But the Pac-12 has more to gain financially by putting teams into a CFP field than by not. The league hasn’t put a team in the Playoff since the 2016 season. In the absence of expansion, the league office just turned into the biggest Utah support group on the planet and heaped even more pressure onto the plates of new USC and Oregon head coaches Lincoln Riley and Dan Lanning. Why should the Pac-12 be taken seriously when expansion talk starts up again ahead of 2026 if the American Athletic Conference has had as many (or more…?) CFP participants in the last decade?
There’s another scenario that has been floated out there, more conspiracy than not. What if the Pac-12 voted no—against its own self-interests—so as to remain aligned with the Big Ten and the ACC, whose commissioners have both expressed reservations in the past about expanding too soon? Was this about solidarity?
When reached for comment by The Mercury News’ Jon Wilner, Kliavkoff declined to comment on any details.
To be perfectly clear, there’s no reason to continue this Facebook-official-but-practically-useless relationship with the Big Ten and ACC if you’re the Pac-12.
In December 2021, Kliavkoff said they’d lop off one conference game—dropping from nine to eight—immediately if the Big Ten would do the same. The goal would be to create more nonconference headliners moving forward between the two leagues. Ya know, the thing the conferences trumpeted when they announced “The Alliance” in the first place.
Two months later, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said the Big Ten’s athletic directors prefer to stay at nine conference games and “walked away” from the idea of going down to eight.
OK…? So… what are we doing here?
There’s zero chance the Big Ten was concerned about what helped or hurt the Pac-12 during negotiations on an expanded CFP field.
A report from Sports Business Journal last week predicted a potential $1 billion a year TV rights deal could be coming for the Big Ten, that a bidding war between the likes of FOX, Disney, NBC, and CBS could flush the league with cash when its new deal takes hold in 2023. That would more than double the Big Ten’s current take. When we start this process up again in the lead-up to 2026, it’ll be the SEC, the Big Ten, and everyone else.
The Big Ten has shown it doesn’t need the Pac-12 and doesn’t feel any pressure to work with the Pac-12 in any kind of on-field way. What’s going to change by 2024 or 2025 if the leagues’ finances are even further apart? If scheduling isn’t in place, nothing.
The Pac-12 needs to worry solely about helping the Pac-12. Voting “no” on expansion does the exact opposite.
What we saw last week in response to Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels entering the transfer portal was gross.
From high-profile TV personalities floating that the locker room was better for having Daniels no longer part of it—a narrative transparently echoed from a source or sources inside the program meant as a parting shot—to video emerging of players going through Daniels’ locker and trashing him, the culture surrounding Arizona State football has never looked as toxic as it does now.
Daniels entering the portal might signal something about the fate of the ASU coaching staff. It might signal nothing. It might be a referendum on head coach Herm Edwards. It might be about NIL opportunities elsewhere. It might be this, might be that.
Players transfer. It happens. It’s not a problem that ASU picked Daniels over exploring other quarterbacks in the portal and then two months later he chose to leave. Things change. The problem is that folks are starting to toss around the phrase “lack of institutional control.”
Edwards can’t do anything about a college student failing to think twice before posting a potentially compromising thing to social media. That’s what college-aged people do. Edwards can, however, be held to account for allowing a culture within his program to be one of such recklessness.
Brazen recruiting violations bringing on NCAA investigations and “he sucks anyway” statements about a player transferring away from the team aren’t the same in degree, but they both boil down to responsibility.
Arizona State surely wasn’t the first college football locker room to be more light-hearted than despondent to news a teammate is transferring. It won’t be the last. But go compare the public reaction from UCLA teammates to Mitchell Agude—one of the Bruin defense’s brightest players for 2022—entering the transfer portal to the reaction in that video from ASU’s team to Daniels entering the portal.
Regardless of how one might feel about Daniels’ ability on the field, there just needs to be a higher degree of maturity and responsibility than what’s been displayed by Edwards and his team. Or there needs to be accountability required from the higher-ups. Doesn’t seem like either of those things are happening in Tempe.
Shoutouts of the week:
- Jaylen Clark: The UCLA guard looks to have two-way star potential. Two nights after posting 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, and four steals in a 20-point win over Washington State, Clark dropped a 25-piece on Washington.
- Tommy Lloyd: If Arizona wins the Pac-12, the way it looks now like it will, give Lloyd, in his first year leading a bench, every Coach of the Year award.
- Christian Koloko: The big man saved Arizona against Oregon. The defensive play on Will Richardson on the game’s final possession was an incredible individual effort from a 7-footer to swallow a 3-point shooter with the game on the line. Koloko leads the Pac-12 in block percentage, true shooting percentage, PER, defensive win shares, per-40 win shares, and box plus/minus. Can we talk about him as a potential Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate?