College football realignment — What’s next for ACC, FSU?

ACC PRESIDENTS HAD a gathering scheduled final Wednesday that had the potential to have an effect on the way forward for the league. Because the hours ticked nearer to the decision, no one had a transparent thought of what would occur, solely that enlargement was on the desk.

One administrator thought the dialogue about including Cal and Stanford had gone on lengthy sufficient, and the presidents needed to vote. However the administrator admitted to having no thought whether or not a vote would truly occur.

What was sure was there have been votes in favor of enlargement (Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Louisville, Miami, Georgia Tech) and votes opposed (Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina) and swing votes in between. One other administrator thought sufficient of the 15 voting presidents would swing to sure and get the required 12 to approve enlargement.

As soon as the decision began, it grew to become clear that may not be the case. No official vote was taken. In straw polling, the fourth faculty opposed was NC State, in accordance with a number of sources.

An Aug. 15 deadline to depart the ACC for the 2024 season has come and gone. Enlargement discussions are actually “on life help.” After two weeks stuffed with close to fixed drama, from Florida State president Richard McCullough saying the Seminoles would “very critically think about” leaving the ACC to stalled enlargement conversations, the league prepares to start out a brand new soccer season. Interviews with a number of ACC directors and sources with a deep understanding of the convention’s points revealed the inside workings of what occurred (or didn’t occur) this month, and what comes subsequent.



Finebaum: FSU is healthier off leaving the ACC

Paul Finebaum discusses why Florida State and different members of the ACC ought to look elsewhere.

McCULLOUGH DID NOT make his feedback about Florida State’s future and what he hopes generally is a “radical change” to the ACC income distribution mannequin to his board of trustees on Aug. 2 in a vacuum. On the time, the Pac-12 was on the verge of falling aside. Colorado had already introduced its intentions to hitch the Massive 12 beginning in 2024, and hypothesis centered round Arizona, Arizona State and Utah following swimsuit. Hypothesis additionally swirled that Oregon and Washington may be a part of the Massive Ten. McCullough’s reminder to the league about his program’s unhappiness got here as faculty athletics stood on the precipice of one other spherical of radical convention realignment.

Behind the scenes, nonetheless, the ACC was already having conversations about attempting so as to add Cal, Stanford, Oregon and Washington — discussions that had been going down for nicely over a yr. In reality, Duke president Vincent Value (serving as ACC board chair) reached out to Washington president Ana Mari Cauce final yr to gauge curiosity in a partnership. Cauce declined, in accordance with a supply with information of the discussions.

McCullough knew this as he sat in entrance of his board of trustees. As soon as Colorado introduced its future transfer to the Massive 12 on July 27, these Pac-12 discussions picked up once more however didn’t yield a deal. “I can not fathom how Colorado transferring again to a league they’d already been in in some way began all of this,” one ACC administrator stated, calling it a “panic transfer” amongst presidents.

Two days after McCullough spoke publicly, the Massive Ten added Oregon and Washington, however at a reduced share of media rights income — beginning at round $30 million per faculty, per ESPN sources, in comparison with the roughly $60 million or extra current members would obtain. On the time, no one knew whether or not the Massive Ten would proceed including colleges, so this supplied a gap for McCullough’s feedback to be taken extra critically.

However a supply with information of the discussions stated the Massive Ten didn’t have severe conversations about including Florida State, and its high precedence stays Notre Dame.

With Oregon and Washington headed to the Massive Ten, and Arizona, Arizona State and Utah formally becoming a member of the Massive 12, the Pac-12 had solely 4 colleges remaining. The ACC conversations about Cal and Stanford grew extra severe. From an out of doors perspective, there gave the impression to be few advantages, particularly for a league that wanted two issues desperately: extra income and a lift to its soccer repute. Neither faculty supplied that. Add in journey to the West Coast for less than two groups, and it made little sense.

Besides to the presidents.

“Cal and Stanford had been in all probability from the presidents’ perspective a greater goal than anyone else within the Pac-12 simply due to the tutorial repute,” one administrator stated. “The truth that Oregon and Washington left, OK that is positive, however these are two fairly good manufacturers, so how can we combine them into the league?”

Amongst athletic administrators, the preliminary conversations round Cal and Stanford didn’t yield a lot. However additional dialogue modified minds. A number of directors in favor of the transfer described it this manner: longer-term safety within the occasion colleges like Florida State left the convention. The Seminoles aren’t the one ones who’ve checked out their future and evaluated the grant of rights, which supplies the ACC management over dwelling broadcasts and media income by means of 2036. Six different colleges had discussions with Florida State in regards to the grant of rights and charting a path ahead: Clemson, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and NC State.

If the ACC added Cal and Stanford, the brand new colleges would additionally should signal the grant of rights till 2036. The present ACC contract is the longest operating amongst all the facility conferences, and including extra colleges would assist with stability. One administrator put it this manner, “If I used to be the commissioner, I might be doing the very same factor he’s doing, trying so as to add colleges.”

Whereas extra athletic administrators moved in favor of including groups, they had been nonetheless not fully aligned with the presidents. Some requested why there was urgency. For greater than a yr they’d mentioned having greater than two groups from the West Coast in an effort to get any deal performed however demurred. Now they had been OK with solely two? One administrator identified that loads of dominoes may fall, doubtlessly beginning when the Massive Ten tv contract comes up after the 2029-30 season, and the Massive 12 deal is up the next yr. Why the frenzy?

SMU entered the dialog as a means to assist financially — bringing within the state of Texas has attraction not solely from a tv family perspective however from a geographical standpoint. In contrast to with the Pac-12 colleges, although, there isn’t a rush on SMU, as a result of as a number of directors have stated, that it may be added at any time. SMU has been lobbying for a Energy 5 invite and hosted Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff on its campus in February.

So the dialogue final week began to take form round Cal and Stanford. As extra ADs moved in that course, the college presidents gave the impression to be coalescing round a “sure” vote. Notre Dame was, certainly, main the cost. Though the Irish don’t play soccer within the ACC, all their different sports activities — minus hockey within the Massive Ten — do, and subsequently they get a full vote in terms of enlargement. The ACC requires 12 out of 15 sure votes to broaden, and the choice so as to add Cal and Stanford could be made by the presidents.

Not solely did the Irish like the concept of bringing in two elite tutorial colleges with stellar Olympic sports activities applications, one supply famous there was additionally a soccer perspective to all this. There’s a concern amongst faculty directors that if Stanford will get ignored of a Energy 5 convention, it will drop soccer to a non-FBS stage. That, in fact, would have an effect on the longstanding Notre Dame-Stanford soccer collection, which has been performed yearly since 1988 (excluding the COVID yr of 2020).

Why was NC State not in favor of enlargement? The dynamics within the state of North Carolina present a captivating window into the North Carolina-NC State relationship. North Carolina is without doubt one of the most engaging colleges within the nation to each the SEC and Massive Ten, ought to these conferences determine to broaden additional.

NC State holds energy inside the College of North Carolina System and the state legislature. Siding with North Carolina basically alerts the Wolfpack consider their future is tied with UNC.

So in the long run, there was not sufficient help among the many ACC presidents. Including simply so as to add, with zero monetary profit, didn’t make sense to the 4 colleges not in favor, in accordance with a number of sources. Nonetheless, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips stated as lately as July 27 — the day Colorado left for the Massive 12 — the league would proceed to actively think about including groups, with an emphasis on discovering worth in any enlargement choice.

Including groups within the realignment panorama supplies advantages that might assist the league’s survival. As one administrator in favor of the transfer stated, “I’ve to at all times be pondering, ‘How do I get f—ed?’ You do not need to find yourself like Oregon State and Washington State.”

One other supply put it this manner: “We’re at a degree due to all these different strikes on the chessboard that the results and dangers of doing nothing begin to appear worse than the results and dangers of doing one thing.”

THOUGH THE TOPIC shouldn’t be fully closed, discussions haven’t moved ahead since final week, and there are not any presidents calls at present scheduled. The clock is ticking for each Cal and Stanford, who at present reside in a four-team Pac-12 for 2024. One supply stated the window for the ACC to broaden stays open.

As for Florida State, the Aug. 15 deadline to go away the league by subsequent yr may need handed, however the Seminoles are nonetheless severe about having their income issues addressed. McCullough instructed his board of trustees two weeks in the past “our aim could be to proceed to remain within the ACC,” however one thing has to alter with income.

Any faculty wishing to go away the convention should take care of a $120 million exit charge plus the grant of rights, which has by no means been challenged in courtroom. Florida State, like different colleges within the league, has despatched attorneys to review the contract language to higher perceive the doc.

It must be famous the Aug. 15 deadline was solely to withdraw for 2024. Groups can nonetheless determine to go away at any time, however a number of sources have stated doing so may produce a protracted authorized battle that might take years to resolve.

These contained in the league are paying consideration. With no vote on enlargement, and the persevering with specter that Florida State may go away, there may be not less than some hope in Tallahassee that discussions about altering the tv income distribution may start once more, in accordance with sources with information of the scenario.

There may be important resistance amongst different ACC members, for apparent causes. Few colleges are prepared to take much less tv cash based mostly on scores and marketability. Florida State has touted its viewership metrics — a median of three.09 million viewers for regular-season video games in 2014-21 to high the league — a lot to the chagrin of different colleges.

Wake Forest, for instance, has taken the time over the previous month to push again. Within the newest version of the Wake Forest athletic director John Currie’s e-newsletter, he notes that since August 2019, Wake Forest has been the fastest-growing model within the Energy 5, with a 115% development in its fan base throughout that span.

Faculties have privately questioned the model and marketability information Florida State has touted, together with its assertion that if convention revenues had been eliminated, the Seminoles would rank No. 3 within the SEC and Massive Ten in income generated.

Florida State shouldn’t be going to cease pushing for extra money. As Phillips has constantly reiterated, producing extra income is on the high of his each day to-do checklist. The ACC is third behind the Massive Ten and SEC, however Phillips identified the ACC topped all conferences with 16 nationwide championships over the previous two seasons regardless of being behind financially.

“Income technology continues to be a precedence,” Phillips stated final month at ACC media days. “However let me be clear additionally, this league is third proper now in income as we go ahead into wherever the subsequent TV offers are for different conferences. We have had a number of TV consultants. Third is actually a superb place, however we need to acquire and acquire traction financially in an effort to shut the hole with clearly the SEC and the Massive Ten, who’ve leapfrogged everybody.”

It is a matter that can solely proceed to develop when the SEC and Massive Ten begin new tv contracts which are estimated to earn their groups $30 million extra yearly than these within the ACC.

If there are sufficient presidents frightened in regards to the Seminoles leaving, maybe these income distribution conversations will change, making Florida State blissful. For now.

“We love the ACC. My No. 1 aim is to remain within the ACC. That is my No. 1 aim,” McCullough instructed ESPN. “However in some unspecified time in the future it turns into tough for me to do what I am presupposed to do for athletics at Florida State.”

David Hale contributed to this report.

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