Conference realignment: where everyone stands as the 2023 football season approaches

Fallout from a frenzied summer conference realignment spilled over into college sports at the start of the football season, and with Week 0 just days away, there are still a few loose ends to be settled after six Pac-12 schools jumped to the Big Ten and 12 Big within a month. Will any schools or conferences go off in 2023 without finalizing their plans for 2024 and beyond?

Nicole Auerbach, Justin Williams, and Stuart Mandel break up what to watch as leagues and schools ponder their next steps.

1. Where do the last four Pac-12 game stand?

Stanford and Cal are still hoping to get an invite to the ACC, which has continued to discuss expanding west to include them and/or SMU, though one league source metaphorically described the expansion thing as something stashed in the fridge, maybe taken out again later but Maybe not. the athlete asserted that top hitters such as Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush had made calls to the ACC league office on behalf of Stanford and SMU, respectively, As first reported by Sports Illustrated. An ACC source joked that it might be more effective if politicians could send money to the league rather than call in, underscoring how important the financial impact of the expansion is in the discussion.

SMU told the ACC that it was willing to forgo its revenue distribution from the league for five years until it was accepted. A league source confirmed that Stanford had broached the same subject with ACC officials the athlete. At the very least, Bay Area schools will get into partial quotas, if they eventually join.

But the ACC didn’t have enough support to add these schools a week ago, when presidents and chancellors had a bad expansion referendum, needing a 12-in-15 yes vote to make it happen. Four schools opposed: Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina, and NC State. No further votes — formal or straw — have taken place since then. But the ACC has yet to officially outline the expansion, so the wait continues.

The wait also put Oregon and Washington states in a difficult position. The two schools, which have hired Oliver Luck as a consultant, need to see what Stanford and Cal are doing before they can fully explore their limited options. If there is a chance that the four schools will stay together, they will likely work together to rebuild the Pac-12. Oregon State AD Scott Barnes said the athlete on Wednesday that he hopes to get clarity on Stanford and Cal’s paths forward soon. “If we do that, we can get serious about rebuilding the Pac-12,” Barnes said. “That’s definitely our goal. I’ve been in personal contact with the other schools to make sure we’re talking, meeting and moving the ball around. … (the G-5) obviously have options available. But that’s not our priority.”

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If the four schools stick together, they can evaluate the assets they have—money saved via NCAA Tournament units, Pac-12 networking infrastructure, etc.—and see if the league can be rebuilt by backfilling members before deciding they’ll need To go to the Mountain West or the American Athletic Conference. Barnes told The Oregonian on Wednesday He sees the reformed Pac-12 needing “eight to 10 schools to start with.”

However, there is a sense of urgency across the board for all four schools. They need to make plans for the 2024 football season, and now they only have six matches on their schedule. They should be moving on some course of action soon, whether this be Plan B, Plan C…or Plan D. – Nicole Auerbach

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2. What’s next for the Big 12?

the moon! No. It appears that after two years of constant expansion talk, the Big 12 is content to settle with 16 future members starting in 2024: eight incumbents and eight newcomers.

“We’re done” in terms of the realignment, conference commissioner Brett Yurmark said on the “Marchand and Aurand Sports Media Podcast” earlier this week, which includes the Big 12 “no longer” looking at Gonzaga and UConn. Any prior interest in these two was clearly focused on basketball, which Yormark believes is undervalued from a media rights perspective, but adding them became futile once the Big 12 dumped their “dream scenario” to attract the “Four Corners” schools. from buck. -12.

Yormark feels the league has successfully addressed three “big picture elements” since he took over as commissioner in August 2022: re-escalating the media rights agreement with ESPN and Fox (which now runs through 2031), and negotiating an early exit for the Texas and Oklahoma SEC departures. and secure additional expansion. All of that, along with some continued uncertainty in the ACC, positioned the Big 12 to establish itself as the third powerhouse conference behind the Big Ten and the SEC.

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Ambition and turmoil in the future won’t be completely off the table as long as Yormark is in charge, but it looks like the Big 12 are finally able to embrace what they’ve long sought: stability. – Justin Williams

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3. How might the 12-team football playoff change in a post-Pac-12 world with four “powerhouse” leagues instead of five?

We’ll get more clarity on the 12-team CFP and any potential changes to its form in two weeks, when the commissioners meet in Dallas on Aug. 30. And US Securities and Exchange Commission Commissioner Greg Sankey has already cleared the way for the group to once again revert some previously agreed aspects of coordination.

How many FBS conferences will be held in 30 or 60 days? Sankey said on “The Paul Finebaum Show” last week. “We’ve changed the circumstances. Right now, we still have 10 FBS conferences left. But obviously there’s a great question as to whether that (will) be there. And yeah, that could create an idea in my mind and I’m thinking of others about some level of adjustment that is being conducted.”

Last year, the chiefs overseeing the CFP formally agreed to create a 12-team bracket, which will include six automatic spots for the top-ranked conference champions (in most years, the 5 Power 5 conference winners plus the best-of-5 group) and six senior teams. I expect the delegates to discuss a modified “Power 4” scenario that awards five automatic spots to the conference champions plus seven at-large seats. Others have begun to widely discuss the idea of ​​12, but there are legal issues as well as questions of general fairness that can be raised by going too far down this route.

Removing automatic qualifiers would also abandon one of the purported founding reasons for expanding the CFP from four to 12 teams: to increase access to all FBS leagues. However, the SEC and the Big Ten are bigger than ever and likely to weigh in on what they want the new CFP to look like (especially for the new decade starting in 2026), and they’ll certainly want more senior spots for their top teams.

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CFP revenue, which has hitherto been evenly distributed among Power 5 leagues regardless of participation in the four-team field, is also expected to become a more contentious issue in the changing landscape. Perhaps the leagues that field and advance the most teams during the postseason should get more money, similar to the way the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament units operate. The size of the conferences is likely to factor into the calculations; If the shares remain equal, the 18-team Big Ten will pay less money to each of their schools than the SEC splits its share 16 ways and the ACC splits its money 14 ways. Options for adjusting this dynamic will also be explored. – Auerbach

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4. What are the TV-related deadlines and negotiation windows to watch for the realignment loop to begin again?

If the “Pac-12” were to disappear, other major conference contracts would not appear again for some time. The new Big Ten deal with Fox, CBS and NBC that begins this year runs through 2030, the Big 12 deal with ESPN and Fox runs from 2025 through 2031, the SEC agreement with ESPN runs through 2034 and the ACC with ESPN through 2036.

If the Pac-4 stays together and expands, it will face a frantic rush to solicit bids and sign a deal for games starting roughly a year from now. The potential money won’t come close to the $25 million per school Apple was willing to guarantee the Pac-12 before it exploded. But depending on which teams the league adds, the number should easily beat Mountain West’s current deal with Fox and CBS, which pays just $4 million per school and runs through 2025-26. In fact, it could be a way for ESPN to keep a West Coast presence on the cheap.

But it is not clear who will lead the negotiations. Barnes told John Canzano this week, “(Pac-12 commissioner) George[Klyavkoff]hasn’t been involved on our way forward.”

(Photo: Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

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