ACC schools agree to grant TV rights to league
By AARON BEARD
The Atlantic Coast Conference will retain the media rights of any school that chooses to leave the conference before 2027, essentially locking its schools into the league through the length of its current television deal.
The league said Monday that presidents of 15 current and soon-to-be member schools have agreed to and signed the deal, which is effective immediately and could slam the brakes on years of realignment around college athletics.
“In my opinion, any potential realignment of the Atlantic Coast Conference ended with this vote,” Miami athletic director Blake James said. “Today was a great day for the league and for all the members of the league.”
The decision applies to eventual new arrivals Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Louisville. Maryland, who has announced plans to leave for the Big Ten in 2014, wasn’t included.
Awarding control of those TV rights — and, more importantly, the money that comes with them — to the league means that a school would have to leave its TV rights behind if it chose to go elsewhere.
Those rights would stay with the ACC, meaning the departing school wouldn’t bring any added TV value to a new league’s broadcast package and make it a less-desirable target for realignment purposes. In short, if a school left, the ACC would still get the money that school generated through its television package, James said.
“The ACC gets that money,” James said. “What we’ve done is everyone has given their rights to the conference outlets, for all media outlets, until 2027. Virtually you end any type of realignment involving the ACC, is how I look at it.”
At the very least, the league has erected a taller fence to protect itself in the event of another wave of change.
The ACC is the fourth major conference to approve a grant of TV rights, joining the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12. The Big 12 made a similar move last year after the departures of Texas A&M, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado. It was widely regarded as a way to provide long-term stability to the 10-team league.
“This announcement further highlights the continued solidarity and commitment by our member institutions,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “The Council of Presidents has shown tremendous leadership in insuring the ACC is extremely well-positioned with unlimited potential.”
The move, first reported by The ACC Sports Journal, would be a promising sign of stability for the ACC, which had been besieged by rumors that some of its highest-profile members might consider following Maryland out the door and jumping leagues.
“I would describe it as a great strategic move by the league and its members to solidify our future,” James said.
While its existing TV deal with ESPN runs through the 2026-27 season, the sides are updating that agreement due to expansion and the league is researching the creation of an ACC TV channel.
Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said the decision “secures the ACC’s future, and thus Duke’s, for years to come.”
“It is one of the great days in the history of our conference as it shows the highest level of commitment — not by words, but by actions,” he said.
Krzyzewski said in a statement.
Bubba Cunningham, the athletic director at North Carolina, said the grant of rights “should put (conference) realignment on the shelf.”
“These are strong and definitive moves by the ACC and its member schools to further announce our desire to stay together and position ourselves among the top conferences in the country,” Cunningham said in a statement. “We look forward to continued talks with the ACC and ESPN on how to best strengthen and position our multi-media package.”
The league will add Pittsburgh and Syracuse in all sports this summer, while Notre Dame will join in all league sports except football. Louisville will replace Maryland in 2014.
“The added resources coming to the ACC schools will have a significant impact on the success of our athletic programs,” Florida State president Eric J. Barron said in a statement. “We are also very pleased that we will be moving forward on the next phase of developing an ACC network. The vote of the ACC presidents will ensure that the conference will strengthen its position of leadership among Division I athletics.”
The league had also twice raised its exit fee during recent waves of realignment, first to $20 million in September 2011 when it announced the additions of Pitt and Syracuse from the Big East.
A year later, when the league said it would add Notre Dame, the league said it had increased the fees to three times the league’s annual operation budget — which amounted to more than $52.2 million when Maryland announced two months later that it planned to leave.
The ACC is currently suing Maryland for payment of that exit fee.
When Louisville replaces Maryland in 2014, the ACC will add a program that won the NCAA men’s basketball title, reached the NCAA women’s basketball final and won the Sugar Bowl this season in exchange for a school that hasn’t been to a bowl game or reached the NCAA men’s basketball tournament since 2010.
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