Dietlin: Informal Alliance as Foolish as it is Toothless

Posted on August 27, 2021

  By Mik Dietlin, SuperWest Sports

It’s an alliance, not a Super-Conference, agreed upon with handshakes, not contracts.

I prayed a force unlike any before was going to be unleashed onto the college football landscape. The Pac-12, ACC, and Big Ten were hopefully forming an allegiance to thwart power-hungry ESPN and the SEC from controlling the human race.

But from where I sit, the SEC looks as strong as ever.

Media chatter speculated that the announcement from the ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 commissioners Tuesday quite possibly held the promise of a Super Conference come to life, signaling a hellacious inter-conference turf war off the gridiron.

Instead, we were hit with a disarming amount of platitudes about how earth-shattering this alliance is.

Here are a few of them, taken from different suits. Their content and tone is near exact, so no point distinguishing who said what.

…we furthered our commitment to our student-athletes……educational outcomes and experiences for student-athletes…will remain the driving factor…

…we will be able to use our strong voice and united vision to create the best possible experience…

…we can help shape a future for college athletics…

On and on it went with nary a hint of how the dragon would be slayed. No in-your-face merger and no scheduling details, other than suddenly there’s an easier opportunity for unique matchups.

How unique? That will be the question.

In basketball we already have the ACC-Big Ten challenge every year. We also have Ohio State-Oregon, and Michigan-Washington in football this year. The Big Ten is constantly matched up against the Pac-12 during bowl season.

And there’s that Rose Bowl thing in January. Clemson/Stanford might be cute, but are networks really salivating over that contest?

As the sample of quotes above show, the Holier-Than-Thou Alliance went miles out of their way justifying their actions, reiterating how it’s all about protecting the integrity of student-athletes.

For seemingly hundreds of years now colleges and the NCAA have protected these innocent babes from the ravishes of the corporate world, taking root several decades ago when the ideal of separating the lambs from the wolves carried traction with middle-class America.

No one cares anymore how much these amateur student-athletes earn, or how they earn it. Maybe it’s because the middle-class has disintegrated.

But they haven’t cared for a long while now. So off you go, children, into that boundless jungle of green. Watch out for wild animals!

The Holier-Than-Thou Alliance is all about the fear three collegiate conferences have that one other conference is gaining too much power. They’ve banded together, creating more seats at the table, whatever table they happen to be sitting at.

The ACC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 view the SEC as a rogue conference needing to be tamed.

In hiding behind a belief structure, redundantly summarized Tuesday, consisting of little more than the desire to maintain educational stability, they’ve implied the SEC has no interest in that structure.

Haven’t the halls of higher education everywhere and throughout time always lectured us of the importance and value of getting a proper education first, and opportunity will follow?

What’s different now that we all need to be reminded of it again, in such dramatic fashion?

The rogue conference poaching two gigantic money-makers, that’s what.

The SEC, above all else, is interested in two things: championships and money. They’re interchangeable and vital entities allowing their conference to function how they like it to in the South. They take what they want when opportunity knocks, no apologies.

The Holier-Than-Thou Alliance interests are the same, with the added conceit of insisting they’re placing student-athletes above all other concerns.

Look, we all care about our student-athletes and want the best for them. Do we have to keep coughing up that mantra ad nauseam? It’s no longer believable.

If these conferences really do place them above all other concerns, this alliance wouldn’t have been hatched in the first place. How does Texas and Oklahoma portaling to the SEC affect the education and well-being of student-athletes in other conferences?

Obviously, the alliance is a financially-motivated reaction. Streaming television is about to break into college athletics in a big way. There’s no chance they sit on the sideline while the SEC gets fatter and fatter.

This common-law arrangement, where all parties vow to love one another till death do us part is pure naivete.

I suppose we’ll see exactly how strong the love is should the Interloper make an offer to Clemson, Oregon, Ohio State, USC—or all of them—to join up in the coming years.

The FBS is officially on the road to a Power 4 configuration, 20 teams in four conferences. The Holier-Than-Thou Alliance could have taken more time and established the first Super Conference, a blueprint for the rest of the country to follow.

But they blew it. With no clear direction other than creative scheduling, this whole endeavor feels lost at sea.

And without a contract outlining possibilities of future growth, re-alignment, or pursuing their own governing model outside the NCAA, this handshake deal makes it real easy to eventually loosen the grip and search for different partners.

—More from Mik Dietlin—