The Big Ten and SEC Join Forces?

The Future Is Now

By: Robert Craft news services

The two most powerful conferences in the NCAA are teaming up to tackle the biggest issues in college athletics.

The Big Ten and the SEC are forming a joint advisory group of university presidents and athletic directors.

It will discuss recent court decisions, pending litigations, governance proposals, and state laws. Their goal , is to “take a leadership role in developing solutions for a sustainable future of college sports.” (Whatever that means).

The two conferences are the richest in the country and deal with large scale issues like NIL on a  differently from their peers. Sankey has long complained that the NCAA governs across too diverse a membership, with the schools in the highest-resourced leagues needing to make more decisions for themselves.

No one is looking out for the greater good of the college sports. There never has been, and I’m not sure there ever will. I’d sure love for there to be a commissioner of college football (an ideal candidate just became available in January), but why would the conferences voluntarily hire a boss?

Oh, I don’t believe Greg Sankey and Tony Petittii aren’t plotting a full-on breakaway by their conferences. At least not yet. It’s more that big market administrators want to throw their weight around while college sports are reconfiguring.

Sankey, who came up through the NCAA model and remains largely loyal to it, seems unenthused by NCAA president Charlie Baker’s proposal in December for a new subdivision of schools that can pay their athletes $30,000 per year.

Petitti is a college sports outsider who may be more willing to think outside the box than most NCAA lifers.

Also: the SEC and Big Ten need a functioning NCAA more than many suggest. Do you think Kentucky is going to bow out of March Madness in favor of a Big Ten-SEC March Challenge? Do you know what a big deal the College World Series is in the SEC and the Frozen Four in the Big Ten? Not to mention all the regulatory headaches the leagues currently get to outsource to the folks in Indy.

The issue at hand is centered around college football, but this affects all athletes across the country. Any College Football Playoff format that leaves out the ACC, Big 12 and Notre Dame, among others, would lose credibility.

I suppose they could just absorb all the most credible remaining contenders (Clemson and Florida State, etc.), but unless or until a court invalidates the ACC’s Grant of Rights — which could be years — that’s not feasible.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t use their leverage to secure the most favorable terms possible in the new CFP deal in 2026. They’re certainly not going to let a two-team conference dictate how many leagues (if any) get automatic berths.

For years, College Sports Inc. has been in a state of limbo where everyone recognizes the system is broken, but no one is stepping up to do anything about it.

This was the SEC and Big Ten taking it upon themselves to do, which undermines the entirety of College Athletics for personal gain. As for the athletes and supporting conferences, they don’t have much choice but to follow their lead.