The BCS presidential oversight committee is meeting today in Washington to decide on a future playoff system in college football. What comes out of that meeting could also impact the future of the Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling agreement.
According to the San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, who's as plugged into the Pac-12 scene as anybody, teams from that league may be balking at the alliance, which is scheduled to begin in 2017. Wilner writes:
"Multiple league sources have told the Hotline in recent weeks that several Pac-12 schools are … how should we say it? … less than enthusiastic about the partnership, set to take effect in 2017. However, the schools are reserving final judgment until they see whether a strength-of-schedule component is included in the formula that determines which teams participate in the four-team playoff.
If SOS is given serious weight … if it’s a tangible part of the formula … then Pac-12 schools may be willing to consider a partnership in which the top programs draw B1G heavyweights every few years, sources said. But if SOS is not included in the formula, then a full-blown Pac-12/B1G partnership ... could be in jeopardy."
While no specific schools were named, it's obvious that some programs aren't excited by the prospect of adding yet another difficult game to their schedules. The Pac-12 already is playing a nine-game conference schedule, while teams like USC and Stanford have an annual series with Notre Dame. The Trojans also have Texas on their 2017 schedule, while Oregon has Texas A&M on the docket for 2018-19. As Wilner writes:
"Then you’re going to add a game with Wisconsin/Nebraska/Ohio State/Michigan, all while asking the teams to compete with SEC counterparts for a berth in a four-team playoff that doesn’t consider SOS in any tangible form?"
None of this is particularly surprising. We first reported in April that some Pac-12 teams weren't fully on board yet with the agreement, which was announced as a done deal for 2017. We also first reported that Ohio State said it's not going to participate in the partnership in 2017 because of scheduled games against Oklahoma and North Carolina, and that the series could have a staggered start as a result of previous schedule contracts.
Wilner suggests that it could be "an underwhelming alliance, with some schools joining the party later than 2017 -- that would allow time to craft/manipulate future schedules -- and some not participating on a regular basis."
The best hope for the future of the partnership -- which, let's not forget, has the potential to create a lot of fan-friendly matchups -- is for strength of schedule to be a major part of the playoff selection criteria. That's not just good for the Big Ten/Pac-12 deal but for all of college football, as it would encourage better nonconference games throughout the country. If not, then there's simply no incentive not to schedule cupcakes, reap the profits of home games and hope that winning your conference is enough to get you in the final four.
We also know that teams are rarely itching to play multiple top-flight opponents, and that a future schedule deal now can look a whole lot different than the actual games team play. Remember how that nine-game Big Ten schedule got scrapped?
Just another reason to keep a close eye on what the presidents decide on in D.C.