If you worked in the Big 12 conference office or at one of the eight remaining institutions, the most infuriating part of Tuesday's conference between the commissioners of the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 was when ACC commissioner Jim Phillips patted you on the head and handed you a sucker.
“We want and need the Big 12 to do well," he said. "The Big 12 matters in college athletics. The Big 12 matters in Power Five athletics and our FBS group. … We’ll be watching what occurs here."
The Big 12 matters, but not enough to actually include in The Alliance.
The Alliance is the Paris Climate Accord of college athletics, where no contracts are signed, nothing is mandatory and the honor system rules the day, but the Big 12 getting an invitation would've been a statement that carried weight. By not including that league, the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 told the world that the Big 12 isn't a peer.
The Big 12 may matter in Power 5 athletics, but four conferences truly matter and the Big 12 is the fifth.
Reading between the lines: It'll be bad form for one Alliance member to poach another, and so by excluding the Big 12 the three Alliance leagues give themselves the option to add any Big 12 members that prove themselves worthy.
And on that front, following the press conference, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff told Max Olson of The Athletic his conference will come to a decision on expansion by the end of this week.
The Pac-12 coming to a quick decision is a good thing for the Big 12, no matter what that decision may be.
Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State are reportedly working in lock step to plan their next steps together, and it's no secret that those four would jump at a Pac-12 offer. In the event some or all go West, the remaining members can move forward knowing where they stand in the college athletics hierarchy.
And in the (more likely) event where the Pac-12 opts not to expand, the Irate 8 will know where they stand, too. The Big 12 can then move forward toward expansion on its own accord or try to forge ahead on its own island -- as the clear fifth most important conference, and the only major league with eight members.
Obviously, neither option is a good one, especially compared to where the conference thought it was just one month ago. But at least the Big 12 won't be forced to trudge forward under a veil of uncertainty much longer. It can build a new future that, as Phillips said, is important to the health of the Power 5... but not important enough to become an Alliance member.