The Atlantic Coast Conference is expanding from its Eastern roots.
The ACC presidents and chancellors met Friday morning and voted to add three schools — Stanford, Cal and SMU, the conference announced. It will bring the league to 18 members — 17 will play football full time in the league. The additions are in all sports and will begin in the 2024-25 school year.
The moves have been the subject of much drama the past month, as commissioner Jim Phillips worked diligently to appease a group of members eager to add the schools and others seeking more revenue. The protracted process ultimately ended with the ACC growing amid a backdrop that brought to light some of the fundamental tensions within the league.
“We are thrilled to welcome three world-class institutions to the ACC, and we look forward to having them compete as part of our amazing league,” Phillips said in a statement. “Throughout the evaluation process, the ACC Board of Directors, led by [University of Virginia] President [James] Ryan, was deliberate in prioritizing the best possible athletic and academic experience for our student-athletes and in ensuring that the three universities would strengthen the league in all possible ways. Cal, SMU and Stanford will be terrific members of the ACC and we are proud to welcome their student-athletes, coaches, staff and entire campus community, alumni and fans.”
The move unfolded in an atypical process, as votes in league matters usually are cast as unanimous and are simply a formality when the presidents meet to decide. The ACC needed 12 of 15 votes. Heading into the meeting Friday morning, it was uncertain whether the league had votes, a significant variance from how conference expansion typically works.
In a straw poll more than three weeks ago, four ACC schools dissented — Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina and NC State. One of them needed to flip for the vote to pass, and all eyes were on NC State chancellor Randy Woodson going into the meeting.
It was a 12-3 vote Friday with NC State flipping, sources confirmed to ESPN’s Andrea Adelson.
The ACC joins the ranks of a rapidly changing collegiate landscape. Starting next year, the Big Ten will have 18 teams and the Big 12 and SEC will have 16. The move leaves the Pac-12 with just two remaining programs, Washington State and Oregon State, a continued spiral that has included the league losing eight teams since late July.
“We are confident that the ACC and its constituent institutions are an excellent match for our university and will provide an elite competitive context for our student-athletes in this changing landscape of intercollegiate athletics,” University of California-Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ said in a statement.
Cal, Stanford and SMU will come at a significant discount, which will help create a revenue pool to be shared among ACC members. SMU is expected to come in for nine years with no broadcast media revenue, sources told ESPN, and Cal and Stanford will each start out receiving just a 30% share of ACC payouts.
That money being withheld is expected to create an annual pot of revenue between $50 million and $60 million. Some of the revenue will be divided proportionally among the 14 full-time members and Notre Dame, and another portion will be put in a pool designated for success initiatives that rewards programs that win.
For Stanford and Cal, it will be 30% of a whole ACC share for the next seven years. That number will jump to 70% in Year 8, 75% in Year 9 and then full financial shares in the 10th year, per sources.
The move delivers a life preserver to the athletic departments at Stanford and Cal, which were left twisting amid the Pac-12’s implosion. Stanford has an athletic department that is considered the gold standard in college athletics. Both will face increased travel costs, which will significantly impact a Cal athletic department that faces hundreds of millions in debt.
“Student-athletes come to Stanford to pursue their highest academic and athletic potential, and joining the ACC gives us the ability to continue offering them that opportunity at a national level,” Stanford president Richard P. Saller said in a statement.
For SMU, the decision to forgo television revenue gave it a seat in a major conference, and the school will lean on its wealthy boosters to help it stay afloat until revenue comes in. It marks a significant moment for the school’s climb back from the death penalty for major infractions that led to the school not playing football in 1987 and 1988. SMU didn’t return to a bowl until 2009 after the penalties.
See here and here for the background. Gotta hand it to SMU, they must have really wanted this to forego all that revenue. Hope it works out for them. It’s nearly impossible to imagine that we’ll be in anything like the same collegiate configuration we’re in today by the time SMU gets to collect some broadcast media money, but who knows. Maybe the steam is finally running out. Those of you who think of the ACC as an elite basketball conference may have to rethink that; I mean, the scheduling for that season is going to be a nightmare. It’s football’s world, we’re just living in it.
As for Oregon State and Washington State, the two schools that will get to turn out the lights on the PAC-12, they will most likely end up in the Mountain West after the American Athletic Conference decided against westward expansion. I expect the AAC to do something, and we’ll see when the MWC makes their move. Then maybe we can just watch some games for awhile. That would be nice.