The 2023 college football season may have officially begun but that hasn’t stopped the wheels of realignment from turning. After the the defections of two thirds of Pac-12 schools in late July and early August, it looks like the ACC is poised to grab half of the leftovers.
Cal, SMU and Stanford will join the ACC as full members with full voting participation effective July 1, 2024 (SMU) and August 2, 2024 (Stanford and Cal).— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) September 1, 2023
Official announcement from the ACC: https://t.co/0VIiVG3X3c
The additions did not come easily. The recent votes by the presidents of the Big 12 and Big Ten schools were unanimous, and while there were rumors of resistance before the official ballots were cast, in the end the didn’t stand in the way of expansion. It was a different story for the ACC. An August 9 straw poll on the additions fell just short of the required threshold with Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina, and NC State opposing. Since then, and after some creative accounting, at least one of those schools (reportedly NC State) appears to have changed its mind.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Ross Dellenger, Cal and Stanford are expected to take a reduced share, approximately $8 million per year. Meanwhile, the same SMU boosters who incurred the NCAA’s “death penalty” in the 1980s now appear to have saved their team using the exact same means. The Mustangs will reportedly forego all television revenue for up to nine years, with the boosters picking up the tab in the meantime. In all, these discounts free up $55 million to be distributed to other ACC members.
The additions provide some short term stability to the “Atlantic Coast” Conference but it remains to be seen how much it will satisfy the name brand programs. The added revenue will help, but the numbers will still fall short of what B1G and SEC programs will be bringing in by the end of the decade, and there will still be six years remaining on the ACC grant of rights by then. Add in the additional costs for travel and the net revenue already begins to shrink. For programs like Florida State who fancy themselves worthy of a seat at the super conference table this move seems more like a band-aid than a cure.
The defection of the Bay Area schools all but seals the Pac-12’s fate. Washington State and Oregon State were waiting to see what Stanford and Cal would do. If they stayed in the Pac-Whatever there was at least a sliver of a chance the conference could be salvaged. In what form, or at what level, we’ll now never know. The Pacific northwest schools best hopes now lie with either the Mountain West or AAC, neither option offering the resources they’ll need to compete in the college athletics arms race where money is king. The Cougars and Beavers are just the latest victims of the kill or be killed reality of modern college athletics, where tradition and fans are worth less than numbers on a profit and loss spreadsheet.
But hey, at least we’ll have “ACC After Dark”. Yay?