Skull Session: Pac-12 Considers Another “Alliance,” Notre Dame Wants to Stay Independent, and Ohio State Has Massive Social Reach

Folks, it’s here.

Word of the Day: Latent.

THE ALLIANCE, PT. II. The first “loose partnership” the Pac-12 agreed to resulted in a swift knife in the back courtesy of the Big Ten when it poached USC and UCLA. So the Pac-12’s response is to… join another loose partnership?

What would a “loose partnership” with the ACC look like? It could include a shared media rights deal with ESPN, who currently works with both entities. Also, it could result in the 10 remaining Pac-12 teams sticking together and the winner of that “10-team division” playing in an ACC vs. Pac-12 championship game in Las Vegas at the end of the season. Also, there could be some attractive regular-season crossover games between the entities in football and men’s basketball.

“Geography aside,” Thompson told me Tuesday, “(the ACC) has significantly better TV markets than the Big 12.”

Hilarious as this is, it also sounds kind of awesome as a college football fan? I mean, if there’s anything at all that’s going to keep me interested in the Pac-12 and ACC in the midst of the Big Ten and the SEC simply claiming college football for themselves, it’s a combined conference title game in Vegas at the end of the year.

Someone is going to be the first team in college football history to win two conferences in one season, and that rules. I love the new college football.

THIS IS MY LAST RESORT. For any of you holding out hope that this wave of conference realignment would be the thing to finally push Notre Dame into the Big Ten, don’t hold your breath.

You’ll be shocked to hear that it sounds like the Irish have no interest in joining a conference basically until college football as we know it ceases to exist.

A source familiar with the school’s thinking told Sports Illustrated that “independence remains the preference and the leader in the clubhouse.” It will take a lot to move Notre Dame off its cherished identity, but the instability of the entire landscape remains a concern and could further affect the Irish outlook.

Two areas to monitor: the fates of both the College Football Playoff and the Atlantic Coast Conference. If one or both collapse, Notre Dame could be compelled into the Big Ten. Per its current contract, the playoff ceases to exist in January 2026. There is no guarantee another iteration of it will take its place, at any size. “The vast majority of the writing assumes a playoff, and that it’s going to get bigger,” says the industry source. “I’m not sure about that assumption.”

The most interesting thing here to me is actually that bit about the College Football Playoff, because somehow, I hadn’t even considered how all of this absurdity is going to affect the playoff.

I guess if the playoff dies, the winner of the new Big Ten can play the winner of the new SEC for the title every year. That sounds kinda lame, but realistically, it’s what a playoff would probably give us anyway.

THE BRAND IS STRONG. If you want to know why Ohio State is still appealing to recruits seeking that precious NIL money even though the Buckeyes aren’t slinging around that NIL collective money like other schools, it’s actually pretty simple – the brand.

Ohio State’s national brand and social reach absolutely dwarfs every other team in the country.

With that massive of an engaged fanbase, a star player with the Buckeyes is always, always going to be worth a hefty price tag on the NIL market.

UCLA’S SAVIOR. The Big Ten may have just saved UCLA’s athletic department.

The timing isn’t certain and the number of teams that would have been affected isn’t known, but the Bruins were headed toward an Olympic sports Armageddon without the infusion of cash that will accompany its departure from the Pac-12 Conference in 2024.

Now its 25 teams and more than 700 athletes can exhale knowing that their futures have been secured, making those cross-country flights and frigid midwinter temperatures in Big Ten country far more bearable.

“If you love Olympic sports, you should be a fan of this move,” UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond told The Times on Tuesday. “When your program is in significant debt, it’s difficult just to maintain, never mind to invest. This not only preserves the programs now — which was not a given — but also will allow us to invest in them. This move allows us to reimagine what UCLA athletics can be with more strategic investments and resources.”

Over the last three fiscal years, UCLA’s athletic department had run up a $102.8-million deficit that figured only to worsen given the school’s sagging football attendance and paltry Pac-12 payouts that lagged behind its major conference counterparts. Now it’s conceivable that the Bruins could receive $100 million from the Big Ten per year if the expanded conference can snag the projected $1-billion media rights deal that’s set to begin in 2024.

This is a big reason why I’ve thought Stanford would be interested in following USC and UCLA to the Big Ten – that’s another absolutely massive athletic program that could certainly use a cash infusion to keep all of its 36 varsity sports.

SONG OF THE DAY. “Pursuit of Happiness” by Kid Cudi.

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