The SEC fired the first shots two weeks ago, raiding Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12. It seems that the Big Ten, ACC and Pac12 are looking to fire back, and with a bigger gun.
According to Yahoo Sports, the three leagues, which were reported to have been exploring some type of collective alliance as of last week, are set to announce more details of that alliance. Both Yahoo and ESPN have reported this more formal announcement could come as early as next Tuesday, on the eve of the 2021 College Football Season. This, from the linked item:
“The Alliance will center on a shared vision for the future governance of college athletics. For now, the Alliance will mean the three leagues can, among other things, form a voting block that will blunt the growing influence of an expanded SEC. It also allows three leagues that consider themselves like-minded to gain voting power on issues as the NCAA’s influence diminishes.”
OK, seems safe enough. The three leagues, let’s call them the Alliance, since nothing is new under the sun and harkens memories of the CFA, the College Football Alliance, from days gone by, are sending a few signals to the SEC. One, it seems realignment musical chairs is somewhat paused for now, at least as far as these three leagues are concerned. Two, academics and collegiality (seemingly) matter to the Alliance, whereas it seems as sports are the dominant factor for the SEC. Three, the Alliance is going to dictate the future direction of the sport, specifically with any playoff changes, due to the strength of the voting block. That’s just a few off the cuff reactions.
But…perhaps the lede was buried here, at least as it relates to emotions in the state of Iowa. This, from the linked item:
An agreement where each football team in the three conferences would play one opponent from each of the other two leagues on an annual basis. In most cases, the opponents would rotate. This could help maximize revenue in upcoming television deals for the Big Ten and Pac-12, which have expiring media rights deals in upcoming seasons. (The Big Ten deal is through the 2022 football season and the Pac-12 through the 2023 football season.) Under such a plan, the Big Ten could drop its conference schedule from nine games to eight, and require each school to play one game against an ACC and a Pac-12 team each year.
This is where things could get complicated. IF (heavy emphasis on if) the Alliance went this route and the Big Ten moved from nine leagues games to eight and added an annual game against one ACC foe and one P12 foe, that would be a minimum of 10 games per year against a P5 foe (we will still use P5 for the next few years until Oklahoma and Texas leave for the SEC). Here are a few thoughts on this hypothetical on the hypothetical Alliance.
1. This may mean the end of Big Ten divisions, or it means going back to how things were before the league expanded to nine league games. In the ‘old’ way, you would play your six division foes and then two crossover games from the other division, which meant you would go a long time without playing a lot of your traditional conference members. Scrapping divisions would eliminate the longer droughts and allow a significant reshuffling of your schedule every two years, after the home and home played out.
2. This could mean a significant challenge for the Iowa v Iowa State series. Iowa currently plays 10 games against P5 programs; nine league games and the annual CyHawk challenge. IF this Alliance happens and IF it played out as hypothesized above, if Iowa kept playing Iowa State, that would mean 11 games against P5 programs per year. You will be hard pressed to find programs who play that many games against P5 schools right now.
Alabama has games scheduled against Mercer, Southern Miss and New Mexico State this year. LSU has two games scheduled against low-level foes…such is the way in the ‘mighty’ SEC. Notre Dame has games scheduled against Toledo, Navy and Cincy (much better than Bama’s trio, but still three games against non-P5 teams).
I don’t have the time to look at every schedule this year, but I would be willing to put the over/under on P5 teams having a schedule with 11 P5 games for this year at 1.5…and I am taking the under. I bet nobody does it.
Here is another problem with that; Iowa will want to have a minimum of seven home games per year, for additional home game revenue. If they play eight Big Ten games, that is four home and four away. Then one home and one away with the Alliance thingie, that gets you to five home and five away, with two games left. Financially, Iowa (and most other programs) MUST schedule two home games for those remaining two games. There are other reasons to do this, but I will make it very simple here; follow the money, and the money mandates (especially during the current times we live in) that Iowa schedules two home games for these remaining two open dates in our hypothetical.
That doesn’t leave room for Iowa State, unless the Cyclones would play at Kinnick every year.
Would I rather see Iowa play Iowa State each year over some rando from the ACC and P12? Absolutely. Would I rather see Iowa play Iowa State every year as opposed to games against Purdue, Maryland, Rutgers or Indiana from the Big Ten? Yes, I would. Would I like to see Iowa State in the Big Ten? Yeah, I would.
Who knows what might happen on that front in the coming few years…it feels like a long shot, but maybe there is still a shot.
Regardless of that, the math and economics relative to the continuation of the CyHawk series seems fairly plain, IF this Alliance schedule chatter comes to pass; the CyHawk game would be unlikely to continue.