Skull Session: Pac-12 considers another “alliance”, Notre Dame wants to remain independent, and the state of Ohio has tremendous social reach

folks, it’s here.

Word of the day: latent.

THE ALLIANCE, PT. II. The first “loose partnership” Pac-12 agreed to resulted in a quick knife in the back of the Big Ten as they poach USC and UCLA. So the Pac-12’s answer is to join another loose partnership?

What would a “loose partnership” with the ACC look like? It could include a media rights deal with ESPN, which is currently working with both companies. It could also result in the 10 remaining Pac-12 teams sticking together and the winner of that “10-team division” playing in a season-ending ACC vs. Pac-12 championship game in Las Vegas. Also, there could be some attractive regular-season crossover games between units in soccer and men’s basketball.

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

As hilarious as that is, does it sound kinda awesome as a college football fan too? I mean, if there’s anything at all that interests me about the Pac-12 and ACC in the midst of the Big Ten and the SEC claiming simply college football, it’s a combined conference title game in Vegas at the end of the year.

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

THIS IS MY LAST RESORT. For all of you hoping this wave of conference realignment would 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 attending a conference until college football as we know it is gone.

A source familiar with the school’s thinking told Sports Illustrated that “independence remains the preference and the leader remains in the clubhouse.” It will take a lot to strip Notre Dame of its cherished identity, but instability across the landscape remains an issue and could further affect Ireland’s prospects.

Two areas to watch: the fate of the College Football Playoffs and the Atlantic Coast Conference. If one or both collapse, Notre Dame could be forced into the Big Ten. Per his current contract, the playoff ceases to exist in January 2026. There’s no guarantee that another iteration of this will take its place in any size. “The vast majority of writing assumes an endgame and it’s getting bigger,” says the industry source. “I’m not sure about that assumption.”

The most interesting thing here for me is actually the part about the college football playoffs, because somehow I hadn’t even thought about how all these absurdities are going to affect the playoffs.

I think when the playoffs die, the winner of the new Big Ten gets to play against the winner of the new SEC for the title every year. It sounds kind of lame, but realistically it would probably give us a playoff anyway.

THE BRAND IS STRONG. If you’re curious as to why Ohio State is still so attractive to recruits seeking that precious ZERO money, even though the Buckeyes don’t sling that ZERO raise money around like other schools do, it’s actually pretty simple – the brand.

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

With such a huge dedicated fanbase, a star player in the Buckeyes is always, always worth a hefty price tag in the NIL market.

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

Timing is uncertain and the number of teams affected is unknown, but the Bruins were well on their way to an Olympic sporting Armageddon without the cash injection that will accompany their departure from the Pac-12 conference in 2024.

Now its 25 teams and more than 700 athletes can breathe easy knowing their future is 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 heavily indebted, it’s difficult to sustain let alone invest. As a result, the programs are now not only preserved – which was not a matter of course – but we can also invest in them. This move allows us to reimagine what UCLA athletics can be with more strategic investments and resources.”

Over the past three fiscal years, UCLA’s athletic department had run a $102.8 million deficit that was only getting worse given the school’s declining football participation and paltry Pac-12 payouts, which lagged their big conference peers. Now it’s conceivable that the Bruins could get $100 million a year from the Big Ten if the expanded conference can finalize the proposed $1 billion media rights deal, set to begin in 2024.

It’s a big reason I thought Stanford would be interested in following USC and UCLA to the Big Ten — which is another absolutely massive sports program that could certainly use a cash injection to expand all of its 36 varsity sports to keep.

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

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