If the SEC is attempting what in the business world would be called a hostile takeover of NCAA football, then maybe the ACC, Big Ten and PAC-12 are trying a classic defensive technique. What they’re talking about is not quite a merger but it would have the same effect: scaling up to compete.
According to ESPN, citing a story in The Athletic, the three conferences are talking about a scheduling alliance and possibly more.
Interestingly, all three conferences have fairly new commissioners. Phillips has been in his about about six months. Kliavkoff started July 1st. Warren is the elder statesman of the bunch, having been with the Big Ten since 2019.
Phillips replaced Jim Swofford in the ACC, Kliavkoff took over for the dreadful Larry Scott out on the West Coast, while Warren took over for Jim Delaney in the Big Ten.
New thinking in other words.
Which is good because things are changing so quickly.
Of the three, Kliavkoff may be the most interesting. He comes to the PAC-12 from a very different background. His last job was in entertainment with MGM Resorts and also was on the board of BetMGM. We could be wrong but we’re guessing he’s the only commissioner in a major conference who has a direct link with gambling.
But it’s the MGM job that’s relevant. He was in charge of a lot of venues and was expected to put people in the seats. He also has experience in media, having helped to launch Hulu, and also was part of the team that got Major League Baseball Advanced Media up and running.
Scott alienated people in many ways and made some really bad decisions, notably with the PAC-12 Network which started in 2012 and has never made it to DirecTV. He also thought that owning everything would be the way to go and that hasn’t worked out too well either.
It wouldn’t surprise us at all if Kliavkoff ended up getting the PAC-12 on Hulu, where he obviously has contacts, or maybe Apple TV, even though Apple has said it has little interest in live sports.
And of course a scheduling alliance with the Big Ten and the ACC would be a boon for the PAC-12, which really doesn’t get seen a whole lot on the East Coast during football and basketball season because events are at unfortunate times for viewers back East.
Whatever comes out of this, at a minimum it suggests new and creative thinking. Given the pressures college sports are currently under in many ways, innovation is really required.