The college football world was abuzz months ago when the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced their non-conference scheduling agreement, but not surprised at all when it all fell apart before a single game was played in the series. Despite its logistical failures – hard to match schedules when one league plays nine conference games and the other has eight – Virginia Tech AD Jim Weaver was also happy to float the idea along for an ACC-SEC partnership as well. There, the same hurdles would apply. Neither league would truly get exposure to any new ground. And the ACC would likely lose the majority of these matchups, effectively removing their champion from any National Championship conversation (if they were ever in it to begin with).
But what if, instead of a doomed partnership with regional rival/brethren, the SEC, the ACC thought a little outside the box. What about a partnership with its west coast counterpart, the Pac-12?
Now, first of all, hear me out. The two leagues actually have plenty in common. Both maintain high academic standards. Both hold a presence in the largest media markets on their respective coasts. Both struggle to make headway with local professional sports teams (though not the case in every market). And both battle a national perception problem, though the Pac-12 has done more to deal with this of late. After the 2011 bicoastal media tour (basically introducing the east coast to the conference’s schools and premiere personalities) and yesterday’s launch of the Pac-12 Network, the league is looking at aggressive growth to reach the east coast. The ACC, on the other hand, has zero cachet among west coast viewers.
Obviously, with both leagues playing a nine-game league schedule, there isn’t a ton of wiggle room to incorporate cross-continental non-conference games. The easy solution: why bother making them readjust? The plan:
Two Games Each Year
Limiting it to four games each year, you end up “messing with” the schedules of just four teams. Each team in the Pac-12 would only have to participate once every three years. Each ACC team would play in the event once every four years. While many schedules are negotiated out years in advance, if these talks started taking place now, it shouldn’t be too hard for most schools to reserve one weekend starting in the 2014-2017 time period. Doesn’t sound that appealing? What if I told you…
The Games Would Be Staged in Major Media Markets
There’s the draw. This year, Syracuse and USC play in New Jersey at MetLife Stadium, likely capturing the attention of the New York market for the day. Since SC always plays in L.A., attention was on them for the front-end of the series last year, held at the Coliseum.
For the agreement going forward, you can hold one game on the east coast and one on the west each season. So, for the west coast, hold games in Seattle, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver. On the east coast, games would be held in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta and Miami.
Now, if you’re Georgia Tech, suddenly a trip to widely-publicized trip to San Francisco to face Stanford sounds a whole lot better, especially when you know that Oregon is coming to Atlanta on the other end, for another big media payday. To top it all off, the games could be held at NFL stadiums, to maximize the amount of tickets available and marketing opportunities for teams. Yes, we love college football in the traditional sense. But at the end of the day, I think we’ve all accepted it’s a business, so let’s just treat it as such here.
The big draw for those decrying this as purely a business move, the two conferences could also use it as a launching pad for a new, public cooperation for all member institutions’ resources. Shared student programs, shared research labs, cooperative funding – name anything that folks on the academic sides of these enterprises could find appealing, and chances are it could be worked into the arrangement. All in the name of academic partnership and education.
So, to recap, what do the member schools get out of this?
- Exposure to big markets on the opposite coast
- An appealing proposition for recruits outside of their geographic area
- A big TV payday
- Diversified student base, as a result of exposure
- Increased academic prestige by association with other top-tier institutions
- Strength-of-schedule boost
Anyone have any complaints? There’s plenty to iron out, sure. But still, why wouldn’t the leagues do this? So many advantages, and so few drawbacks for both of them, it’s a unique concept that has yet to be brought to anyone’s attention. For those in both league offices, if you’re listening, read through this and give it a try. What’s the worst that can happen?