Complaining ACC Realignment: 7 Schools Consider Granting Rights. But can they leave?

The ACC’s annual spring meetings are held in Amelia Island, Florida, and are expected to conclude by midday Wednesday. It’s the first time the league’s top officials have met in person since Florida Athletic Director Michael Alford publicly criticized the ACC’s current equal revenue-sharing model and said “something has to change,” because FSU can’t compete nationally if it’s down $30 million. . SEC and Big Ten peers on an annual basis.

Those comments, made before his board of trustees back in February, caused a national uproar and were followed by similar calls to consider unequal revenue sharing from peers in Clemson, Miami and North Carolina.

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ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips acknowledged the league’s position vis-à-vis the SEC, and hired outside help to find new sources of revenue for a conference locked in its media rights deal until 2036. What it cost trying to get out of the ACC before that time is unclear; The exit fee alone is $120 million and there is also the issue of ACC rights grant infringement, which has not yet been contested and is assumed to be airtight by most people.

Attorneys for a subset of the schools scrutinized the document thoroughly. One industry source said he has been told that seven ACC schools are interested in exploring ways to leave the ACC.

“If it were that simple, everyone would have already done it,” an ACC source noted.

The GOR piece is important because the ACC will continue to own the broadcast rights to all of its teams’ home games, even if that team pays a walk-out fee. Is there a dollar amount the school can pay to get her rights back? Even if it’s prohibitive, it can be worth paying for a league that brings in an extra $30 million per member per year.

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His prediction for this week’s meetings was to “kick the ball on revenue distribution changes,” the ACC source said, though he acknowledged that he wouldn’t close the gap for schools like Clemson and Florida State compared to schools in the Big Ten and the SEC. He said it was about incremental change and moving toward a system that rewards success on the field (or on the court). Some Florida school presidents are expected to be in person for their quota of meetings; Others will video conference in.

Tension between ACC schools was a hot topic in and out of the league in this offseason. The question has popped up in nearly every conversation with any league official for weeks: When will one or more ACC schools challenge the granting of rights granted by the ACC? Could it be this summer? Next year? Or much closer to the end of the decade that extends to 2036? Everyone knows there are disgruntled members, led by Florida State and Clemson, but it’s not entirely clear what it takes, legal and financial, to try and get out of the ACC before 2036.

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“There’s a big difference between saying you want to do something like this and actually doing it,” said a league source.

Perhaps more interesting is the amount of attention paid to the ACC at another set of Spring Meetings — the one that took place earlier this month in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Big 12 and Pac-12 officially gathered there, as always, and quite a few Big Ten football coaches and athletic directors got out for a few days for Fiesta Bowl-sponsored events (and vacation). Agents, representatives of search firms, and other industry leaders were there as well as reporters.

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There has been much speculation about the future of the ACC and what it could mean for the rest of the major college athletes. Most of the administrators I spoke to the athlete Scottsdale is more interested in the possibility of opening the ACC gates — and what that might mean for the Big Ten and the SEC, which will be in the 16 member states as of 2024 — than in discussing the current showdown between the Pac-12 and Big 12 over schools like Colorado and Arizona.

If Florida, Clemson, Virginia, North Carolina, and Miami become available, that’s a real, big domino that will fall in the conference realignment. As one Big Ten source put it, “These schools are where the real value is.”

This person was particularly interested in Virginia and North Carolina as new states and/or markets for the Big Ten to stretch down the East Coast. This Big Ten source believes that an expansion in the East makes a lot more sense than an expansion in the Pacific Northwest, which has had almost inadequate support internally or among the league’s media partners since the idea was first mooted. said Robert J. Jones, Chancellor of the University of Illinois the athlete Last month there was “no sense of urgency” to expand the league beyond USC and UCLA.

“Are we thinking about (realignment)? We’re doing the analysis and the cost and benefits of staying 16 or moving up,” said Jones, chairman of the Council of Presidents and Counselors of the Big Ten. It’s not something we’re going to do just to respond to what other conferences might choose. We’ll just do what’s best for our current membership, and there should be some value added to expanding beyond that.”

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The SEC doesn’t seem interested in moving past 16 members anytime soon (though that could change if some ACC schools become available), and the Big Ten, with new Commissioner Tony Pettitti, has said its main priority now is Determine how to combine them. Two Los Angeles schools in the league. The Big Ten’s new media rights deals expire at the end of the decade, so maybe the topic will float for a few years while the dust settles in the West and the industry watches what happens with the ACC.

But someone (or Somebody) would have to challenge the ACC’s award of exit rights, and they wouldn’t want to do so unless they knew they had a landing spot in one of the league’s richest leagues. But they also can’t commit to one of those leagues without making sure they can get the GOR out.

It’s a chicken or egg situation. As of now, ACC schools are not available. Will it stay this way?

(Top photo of ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips: David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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