With concerns about overall strength of schedule reaching new heights, the only two conferences to be left out of the College Football Playoff in the past three years have reportedly explored the idea of injecting a little juice into the overall conference strength of schedule with a conference vs. conference concept. The Big 12 and Pac-12 reportedly discussed the possibility of working together, according to a report from Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com. But don’t expect anything more to happen with those future schedules any time soon.
The discussions took place in an exploratory stage over the summer as the Big 12 was weighing future options for conference stability, including expansion. Unfortunately, that was about as far as the idea got as the Big 12 continued to follow through on its plan to add a conference championship game in 2017 and put any expansion plans on ice. For whatever reason or reasons, a deal with the Pac-12 could not gain any momentum and the talks essentially ended there. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby also said in the report the Big 12 had similar discussions with the ACC and SEC.
A few years back, before conference expansion really hit its stride, the Big Ten and Pac-12 worked out an arrangement that would see the two conferences schedule a conference vs. conference slate of games involving every member of the conference. It was a brilliant idea at the time, feeding off similar concepts employed in college basketball, but the Pac-12 ultimately backed out of the arrangement due to increasing concerns about adding this type of deal on top of a nine-game conference schedule (the Big Ten, with 12 teams at the time, had not yet committed to a nine-game conference schedule). With the Pac-12 backing out, the deal was done and there had been no talk about such a scheduling arrangement by the Big Ten or Pac-12 until now (that we are aware of).
It is a shame such a deal could not have been worked out, because it would seemingly solve a possible problem the Big 12 and Pac-12 each have compared to the stature of the ACC, Big Ten and SEC. Like the ACC, Big Ten and SEC, all Big 12 schools are required to schedule at least one game per year against another power conference opponent. Of course, having a deal in place with the Pac-12 would automatically satisfy such a requirement for Big 12 schools. The problem, albeit minor, is the conferences do not have even membership, which means there would be two Pac-12 schools left out of the fun each season.
It is good to know the Big 12 continues to explore such an idea, although knowing the Big 12 and witnessing how long it takes this conference to move on anything tells us it will be a long time before anything comes out of it. If any conference could benefit from a scheduling agreement with another conference, it might be the Big 12. The conference has missed out on the College Football Playoff twice, including this past season, in part because of the overall perception of the conference compared to its peers. One loss was enough to help keep the Big 12 co-champions TCU and Baylor from the playoff three years ago and two losses prevented even a red-hot Big 12 champion Oklahoma from surging into the playoff mix. A solid bowl season helps, but improving the strength of schedule as a conference is key to adding an extra ingredient to combat criticism of the conference. If the big 12 does work out an agreement in the future, will other conferences respond?
The ACC and Big Ten have a terrific basketball series that would also make for a fantastic football series as well if one were to be created, for example. Basically, the bottom line is the bottom line. If it makes fiscal sense for power conferences to arrange a full conference vs. conference scheduling agreement, then it will come together. It is hard to argue there would be no interest in a series from a fan standpoint, and network partners and advertisers would jump at the opportunity to get in on more attractive games.
Let’s make this happen, college football overlords.