Desperation. It is the only way you can describe the circumstances of the ACC voting to add Stanford, Cal-Berkeley, and Southern Methodist University this morning after weeks of drama. Desperate to find any way to close the monetary gap with the SEC and Big Ten, the ACC invited three schools desperate enough to accept very lopsided terms to join. SMU will not receive any TV distributions from the ACC for seven years while Cal and Stanford will receive partial shares for several years. The expansion will add roughly $4 million a year per school for the rest of the ACC but for schools like Florida State and Clemson it is too little, too late.
The implosion of the PAC-12 sent shock waves across the college sports world and they were felt the loudest in the ACC. Brett McMurphy reported last week that ESPN could renegotiate the ACC’s contract if the conference dropped below 15 members. For schools like Wake Forest and Boston College, there won’t be a lifeline available should the ACC suffer a similar collapse. Florida State and Clemson provide the vast majority of TV viewers to the ACC.
After months of public infighting that saw Florida State all but declare it was doing everything it could to leave the conference, it isn’t a shock these schools staunchly supported expansion. FSU and Clemson leaving the conference would cause the ACC’s TV contract to be massively devalued.
The expansion process has also brought to a head Notre Dame’s role in the ACC. Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick appeared on the Dan Patrick Show last week and publicly flirted with the idea of Notre Dame joining the Big Ten while referring to the ACC as a “conference for our olympic sports.” Despite not joining the conference in football, Notre Dame pushed the conference into adding Cal and Stanford. Keeping the ACC alive even in a Frankenstein form is in Notre Dame’s best interests if they want to remain football independent. No other major conference would allow Notre Dame to park its non-revenue sports while keeping football to themselves. While it isn’t known yet how the expansion will impact Notre Dame’s scheduling agreement with the ACC, Stanford has been an annual opponent for Notre Dame for decades. Having Stanford as an annual ACC game would free up a spot Notre Dame could use to schedule more marquee opponents as the Irish continue to negotiate a contract renewal with NBC. With such an arrangement, Notre Dame may end up being the only school affiliated with the ACC to truly gain anything from this expansion.
For Florida State, the expansion does nothing to change its realities. The additional funds are a drop in the bucket compared to what other football powers will be bringing in over the coming years. If anything the expansion vote only hurt the Seminoles as any path to dissolve the ACC to get out of the GOR is now blocked. For now it appears FSU will need to finalize a strategy to either successfully sue the conference to get out of the Grant of Rights or raise the necessary funds to pay it off.
Update: Florida State President Richard McCullough and Athletic Director Michael Alford released the following statement on ACC expansion