By RALPH D. RUSSO
PASADENA, Calif. — Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford hopes the decision by his members to hand over their television rights to the league helps bring stability to all of college athletics after three years of conference realignment chaos.
The ACC announced Monday its 15 current and future members agreed to a grant of rights, a legally binding deal that runs through 2027 and makes it nearly impossible for a school to switch conferences.
“I hope it is good for the entire landscape,” Swofford said Tuesday during a break in the BCS commissioners’ meetings at a resort hotel in Pasadena. “There’s no question that it’s good for the Atlantic Coast Conference, and I think that hopefully that transfers to the greater good and the larger landscape from a national perspective. It would appear to me that it does that.
“Particularly in terms of the membership within the power five conferences.”
Three of the other power conferences — the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 — already have similar deals. The Southeastern Conference is the only one of the five power leagues in major college football that hasn’t had its members sign a grant of television rights, but the SEC is so wealthy and strong its members would seem to have no reason to want to move.
The dizzying merry-go-round of conference realignment has been spinning since late 2009, when the Big Ten announced that it was looking to expand.
Since then the Big Ten has added three members. The SEC has added two. The Pac-10 has grown into the Pac-12. The Big 12 has shrunk from 12 to 10 members, losing four schools and adding two. The ACC has added four schools and lost one. And conference realignment whittled down the Big East to the point where it fell from the ranks for the power conference and changed its name to the American Athletic Conference.
For every move that has happened there has been double the amount of rumored moves. Most of those lately have involved the ACC. There has been speculation that the Big 12 would target Florida State and Clemson if it wanted to go back to 12 members, and that the Big Ten would dip back into the ACC for more members after luring away Maryland.
“I think a lot of our presidents and ADs got a little tired of the rumors that were out there which were basically unfounded,” Swofford said. “Seeing that and saw this as the next route to go in terms of the solidarity of the league going forward.”
Now that those schools are apparently locked in to the ACC, there are not a lot of schools with athletic programs that can bring value to a conference that are easily available for the Big Five to gobble up. And if the ACC is not going to need to replace members any time soon, it should keep the five other FBS conferences fairly safe.
Does this put an end to realignment?
“I think it certainly has a calming effect,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.
For the Big East and the other conferences — the Mountain West, Sun Belt and Conference USA — that have been hit hard by revolving door membership caused by the big conference’s desire to expand, the calm might be more tenuous. But there is at least some reason for optimism.
“We were all looking for that breathing space,” Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said. “Now we may have an extended period. You never know. Talking to other commissioners, everybody is really happy with where things are.”