football Edit

Would reported 'alliance' be good for Penn State? Sandy Barbour weighs in

It seems inevitable now that, at some point, and perhaps as soon as next week, the Big Ten, ACC, and PAC-12 will form an alliance in response to the SEC welcoming Oklahoma and Texas into their ranks in a few years.

Would that be a good thing for Penn State?

There are arguments to be made on both sides of the ledger. One says that the Big Ten is in a position of power as opposed to those other two conferences, thanks simply to television revenue alone, but realignment will be a constant conversation starter around college football in the years ahead, and the schools and leagues that strike first will ultimately make out best when the dust finally settles.

During a ZOOM news conference with reporters on Saturday, Penn State Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour addressed the report and also shared why it could be a good thing should it come to fruition.

The Big Ten logo as seen at the conference's media days. BWI photo/Greg Pickel
The Big Ten logo as seen at the conference's media days. BWI photo/Greg Pickel

"I think that this is a really interesting time, as it relates to, what you're calling the ripple effect from Texas and Oklahoma," Barbour said. "I don't know that you've seen much ripple yet. I think this is different from some of the other expansion periods that we've experienced. I know the Big Ten feels like it's in a really good place, but having said that, whether it's this week or last week or something, after the Oklahoma and Texas announcement, or it's the two months prior to that, it's something that I know since I came back to the conference in 2014, and leaving one of those other conferences, that we've certainly been paying attention to, and it's all about what brings value and I'm not just talking about money.

"Certainly money is important, but I'm not just talking about money. What institutions, or what steps that we could take, would bring value to our conference?"

There is no other way to frame the conversation than around money, though. It won't be long until the Big Ten is up for a new television deal, and while it will fetch plenty of money in its current state, adding teams such as Clemson, Miami, Florida, Florida State, Oregon, Stanford, USC, UCLA, and so on would command even more cash on the football side of things, and that's not to mention Duke, North Carolina, and others on the basketball front.

According to The Athletic report, there's more to it than just revenue, of course. The outlet's Nicole Auerbach writes that "Schools within the three conferences believe they are like-minded, that they want to continue to prioritize broad-based sports offerings and that the academic profile of their institutions matters — as does graduating athletes. For example, Big Ten schools sponsor an average of 24.8 sports per campus, with the ACC (23.8) and Pac-12 (22.9) not far behind. SEC schools offer an average of 19.9 sports."

That's fine and well and might help broker the arrangement and be a part of its selling points publically, but as always in college sports, money will be the main driver in any sort of agreement.

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"I do think that there are conferences out there that could bring value from a monetary standpoint, particularly, speaking about our television contract and our television revenues, but also from this concept around like-minded institutions," Barbour continued. "The Big Ten really prides itself on being more than just an athletics conference in terms of, our provosts get together, we share library resources, some other academic resources.

"If you look at that footprint of Pac-12, ACC, and Big Ten, I think the number, it's 40% percent of the [Association of American Universities] membership lies in those three conferences, so I think there are, again, I'm not trying to downplay the importance of value as it relates to upsizing our revenues. That absolutely certainly is important, but that's not the only reason, and I think that there are some reasons around like-mindedness that would be very valuable to the conference."

To answer the question the headline poses, it's this writer's view that the alliance would be beneficial, both in the short and long term, for the Big Ten.

Mergers and partnerships are coming one way or the other across college athletics, and those three conferences joining forces to take on the SEC would be fascinating for a number of reasons and good for Penn State from a number of perspectives.


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