The Big Ten and Pac 12 have cancelled their non-conference scheduling agreement set to begin in 2017. The Pac 12 pulled out of the agreement amidst concern from some member schools about playing a nine-game conference schedule in addition to a Big Ten game. Here is the statement from Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott.
“After extensive deliberation and consultation with member institutions, television partners and others, the Pac-12 and Big Ten have decided not to pursue the previously announced plans for enhanced scheduling collaboration across all sports at this time. While we continue to value our close relationship, particularly our partnership in the Rose Bowl, the Pac-12 came to the conclusion that it’s in our best interests to maintain our 9-game conference schedule and maximum flexibility in out-ofconference scheduling. Thus, the Pac-12 decided not to lock into the proposed mandatory 12-game schedule in football.”
The Pac 12 withdrawing is not surprising. It did not make much sense for them to agree to it originally. If the four-team playoff is going to account for strength of schedule beyond a cursory “the SEC is the best conference in the country, bro” level, the nine-game conference schedule is already a huge advantage. For a quick example, look at SRS from last season. The Big Ten was a better conference, but Pac 12 teams still ended up with a stronger strength of schedule. The nine-game to eight-game disparity can also be seen in the aggregate Big 12 vs. SEC numbers.
This deal gave the Big Ten a leg up, and potentially would hurt Pac 12 teams. It would turn ambitious scheduling into egregious scheduling. It might be “good for fans” if Stanford has to play five road games in the Pac 12, play Michigan in Ann Arbor and Notre Dame (as well as a potential title game). It’s not good for Stanford who gets put at a significant competitive disadvantage for a postseason place.
Canceling the agreement leaves the Big Ten in an interesting position. Scheduling in concert with the Pac 12 was a way of amicably resolving the nine-conference game conundrum. Athletic directors want the ninth game to enhance TV revenue and avoid making huge payouts to more demanding body bag teams. Coaches want to stay at eight games, to not increase the difficulty level. This deal gave the administrators that ninth game, without forcing a coach to play five road games in conference. There’s no other wieldy option out there if they stay at 12 teams. We’re guessing the Big Ten goes to nine games.
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