Yesterday the Atlantic Coast Conference and ESPN announced a massive extension of their current television agreement that goes a long way toward helping ACC schools keep up with the Joneses of the other power conferences. After agreeing to a 12-year deal worth $1.86 billion two years ago, the two parties have now extended that contract through the 2026-27 season for a grand total of $3.6 billion.
The deal came as a result of the ACC’s move to nab Pittsburgh and Syracuse from the Big East conference in 2011. Instead of 12 schools making $12.9 million per year from the old deal, the 14 schools of the new ACC — whenever Pitt and Syracuse arrive — will make an estimated $17.1 million per year.
That $17.1 million per school figure still lags behind the Pac-12′s new deal (about $21 million per school per year), the Big Ten (more than $20 million per) and the new Big 12 television deals announced earlier this week (about $20 million per). SEC schools have been making about $17 million per year, but Mike Slive’s league is currently negotiating bumps in pay with both ESPN and CBS as a result of Missouri and Texas A&M entering the league. When the smoke clears, it’s expected the SEC will make more per school than any other conference (either through enhanced deals or the launch of a new SEC network — with ESPN as potential partner — or both).
Overall, however, all of these leagues are now in the same general ballpark (even considering that the ACC has given ESPN its Tier I, II, and III rights). That fact — as well as the timing of yesterday’s announcement — is being taken as a sign by most that those recent, much-hyped rumors of Clemson and Florida State moving to the Big 12 were in fact baseless. We wrote as much last week. It’s unlikely that ESPN would cut and announce new deals with the Big 12 and the ACC within a week’s time if the network thought there was even the remotest chance it would have to tear those deals up and negotiate new ones due to an impending Big 12 raid on the ACC. A raid to take place before the end of summer according to some websites and many Big 12 supporters on messageboards.
We suspect, however, that those who’ve been behind the Clemson/FSU rumors — as well as those who’ve simply been hoping the rumors are true — will stick to their guns and point to the Tier III dollars lost by the ACC as a “sure” sign that the Tigers and Seminoles will jet from their current league. And we’re still won’t buy it.
The ACC has a better academic reputation and more money flowing through its current academic partnerships than the Big 12. Remember, research budgets at most major universities dwarf athletic budgets. Additionally, we still can’t imagine the presidents at Clemson and FSU being able to sell their fans on traveling to places like Manhattan (Kansas), Lubbock, and Ames over places like Coral Gables, Chapel Hill and Atlanta. For that matter, what about the parents of recruits? Think Southern families would want to make longer trips to see their kids play football in a distant conference home? Texas A&M and Missouri are going east instead of west by joining the SEC. Clemson and FSU would be jumping an entire region in their move to go even farther west.
While anything’s possible when it comes to realignment and expansion, we at MrSEC.com think the current cycle has pretty much played itself out. We’ve been saying that for a while now and from the folks we’ve spoken to at multiple SEC institutions, two ACC institutions, and one Big Ten institution… everyone seems to be in agreement. Any remaining moves are likely to be either small or isolated. Example: The Big 12 might decide to run at Louisville and another Big East team to max out at 12 schools and host a football championship game. But with ESPN announcing deals with both the Big 12 and the ACC in the past week, we think that’s less likely as well (for the time being).
ACC commissioner John Swofford immediately put the following spin on his league’s new contract via press release:
“We are excited to have further enhanced our partnership with ESPN through the extension of our multimedia contract. We are proud that ESPN has invested so deeply in the ACC both from a resource and exposure standpoint. As we look to the future, this relationship will be tremendous for our schools, fans, coaches and student-athletes.”
He could have just as easily said, “We feel much more stable today than we did yesterday.” Better still: “We’ve been more stable than a lot of you have thought ever since we invited Pittsburgh and Syracuse to join us last year.”