After nearly a month of debate over expansion, the Atlantic Coast Conference has finally reached a decision. The ACC will add Stanford, Cal and SMU as new members in the 2024-25 academic year. announced on Friday.
Funding critical to final approval: Multiple league sources said Athletic SMU has not been willing to accept ACC media rights revenue for nine years, and Stanford and Cal were initially willing to join as area members receiving a significantly reduced revenue share. The math worked out well enough to vote current ACC members into Friday morning’s meeting.
ACC’s footprint now stretches from the Atlantic – as its name suggests – to the Pacific Ocean. It joins the Big Ten as the only power conferences to include members on both the West and East Coasts. The three schools are the ACC’s first additions since Louisville joined in 2014.
The ACC invitations are important lifelines for Cal and Stanford, whose options have been severely limited after six Pac-12 schools left the league this summer. Both schools remained confident in the ACC, despite the stalled nature of the process in recent weeks. The league needed 12 of its 15 members to support the expansion, and a straw poll taken in mid-August showed 11 in favor and four against.
In the weeks after that straw vote, ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips presented various funding models aimed at achieving the necessary votes. He spoke to the protestors for some time, heard their concerns and tried to address them.
However, subsequent conversations did not lead to consensus. On Thursday, the chair and vice chair of the UNC Board of Trustees issued a statement ahead of the final vote, expressing opposition to the expansion. By a “strong majority” of the group: “While we value the academic excellence and athletic programs of those institutions, the travel distance for regular conference tournament games makes this arrangement meaningful for our student-athletes, coaches, alumni and fans. Furthermore, the economics of this newly envisioned transcontinental conference did not adequately address the income inequality faced by ACC members.
Other executives in the ACC believed the report was sent to pressure UNC President Kevin Guskiewicz. UNC and NC State are not required to vote together, but the political environment in which the schools operate makes it difficult for them to make unaligned decisions. For that reason, NC State head coach Randy Woodson has been the most fascinating around the league over the past few days and weeks.
League sources confirmed NC State flipped And on Friday morning they voted yes. UNC voted against the measure.
UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a statement Friday that he “respected the decision” but said his vote against the expansion was “informed by the feedback I have gathered over the past several weeks from our athletic leadership, coaches, faculty athletic advisors, students, athletes and our university and the success of our great athletics program.” various stakeholders who care deeply about
Funding agreements between the ACC and the three new members paved the way to make the expansion possible and address additional travel costs associated with adding schools in California and Texas. The only way expansion would have worked for the ACC was to ensure that the revenue distributed to existing ACC members was not reduced. But the financial incentive goes far beyond simply covering travel costs.
As part of the ACC’s long-term contract with ESPN, the network must pay the full pro-rate share to any new members. According to the ACC’s 2021-22 fiscal year, the league generated $443 million in TV revenue, the equivalent of $29.5 million per school, a figure expected to rise modestly each year. While SMU was not willing to accept ACC media rights revenue for nine years, and Stanford and Cal were expected to take about 30 percent of the stake, the addition would generate $50 million in new money to be distributed among existing members. Commencing in 2024-25. Cal and Stanford’s stake will increase annually until full membership is reached in 12 years.
“There’s something for everyone in this, and it’s hard to do. But in the end, it brings more revenue to our schools,” Phillips said Friday. “It’s hard to get a consensus all the time. When we left that call today, everybody was in a really good place.
That new money, from SMU’s share and Stanford and Cal’s partial share, is expected to be used to reward schools that invest heavily in football (like Florida State and Clemson) in a new revenue-sharing system to reward on-field performance. ) working toward closing the funding gap with their counterparts in the SEC and Big Ten. The ACC is expected to reward schools for College Football Playoff participation, conference championships and other benchmarks, totaling $10 million in incentives per school in one year.
Most incentives are linked to football, but not all.
Cal, Stanford and SMU must sign the ACC’s grant of rights, which runs through 2036. Although they receive no or partial revenue from media rights, all three members receive other league revenue tied to the CFP and NCAA Tournaments. .
The ACC held highly publicized meetings this month to discuss the expansion and iron out the financial details that would make it possible, but the move is still stunning. The conference, which began in North Carolina, now includes the Bay Area and Dallas. The ACC will soon have 17 full members, plus Notre Dame, which plays football as an independent.
One of the primary goals of the multi-league resource expansion is to ensure strength in numbers for the ACC moving forward. Even if Florida State or others try to leave the ACC (and pay whatever it costs to get out of the league’s rights grant, which ties the schools to the conference until 2036), there will already be schools to fill those spots — an opportunity to add two of the nation’s most prestigious institutions that boast elite Olympic sports programs.
Stanford expects 22 of its 36 games to see “no scheduling changes or minimal scheduling impacts.” The school said Friday. Stanford said most planning will continue through the weekend — and the school will work with the ACC to “optimize” solutions to “mitigate the impact of travel.”
Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir said the school will start with a 30 percent revenue share for the first seven years, then go to 70 percent in year 8, 75 percent in year 9 and 100 percent in year 10.
“Even though the trip didn’t make sense to some people, we thought it would be a great opportunity,” Muir said. “Our student-athlete leadership told us, ‘We want to continue to compete at a high level.’ We think travel can be balanced with academic rigor.
SMU President R. Gerald Turner called the move “a historic milestone in the history of our company.” In a statement Friday.
“From the beginning of my tenure on the Hilltop, we had a vision to re-establish SMU athletics as a nationally recognized and relevant program that would complement our outstanding academic reputation,” Turner said. “It was truly an amazing time at the top of the mountain.”
The ACC additions marked one of the final power conference waves of confusion on Aug. 4, when Oregon and Washington left the Big Ten and Arizona, Arizona State and Utah left for the Big 12, just days before Colorado jumped the Big 12. The remaining four Pac-12 schools were left to figure out their futures. Stanford and Cal had hoped from the start to land in the ACC — albeit a fractional share — rather than leave the Power 5 league for a 5-man league. Influential alumni, such as Stanford’s Condoleezza Rice, called on ACC leadership this month to try to get them across the finish line.
Washington State and Oregon State are the last two schools left in the Pac-12. The two schools have received interest from both the Mountain West and the American Athletic Conference, and are expected to choose their new homes relatively soon — but the AAC said Friday it “will not look west” for expansion.
“We’ve gone from regional conferences to national, coast-to-coast conferences,” Phillips said. “College sports is going through its next transition, and it’s really tough.
“You get busy or you get left behind.”
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