My plan to start the week was going to be a post on the ridiculousness of the “FSU and Clemson are going to bolt for the Big 12” rumors. Breaking down some of the origins. Pointing out how much of it was message board generated — and not even from FSU or Clemson sites. Noting that Oklahoma bloggers were dismissing it (and mocking a Hoopie to boot). Noting how most in ACC country weren’t buying it. The whole premise being based on TV money and football culture. The biggest problem, though, with the whole premise is that this is not a decision made by an AD or the athletic department as a whole. It is one made by the college president and board of trustees. It is a decision about the entire university, not where they play football. And the fact is, the ACC is a more prestigious and academically. That seems somewhat silly, I know, since so much of expansiopocolypse is all about the money. Yet there is one factor to consider.
All moves have an academic mobility component as well. The moves out of the Big 12 by Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M had them going to conferences with higher overall academic ratings for the member schools. Same for WVU, Syracuse and Pitt out of the Big East. Same for the C-USA and MWC coming into the Big East. There is a factor of moving up in all things, not just athletic standards. A move from the ACC to the Big 12 is downward.
It would have been a much longer post. More links and a lot more coherence, but that was the planned gist. Then the Big East expelled Marinatto and the focus kind of shifted for a couple days. No big deal. Figured this could keep until today. Afterall, this was just a BS rumor.
Then, yesterday afternoon happened.
The Atlantic Coast Conference announced a long-term TV deal with ESPN Wednesday through the 2027 season that will mean a lucrative annual payout for Pitt once the Panthers leave the Big East.
The deal is worth $3.6 billion over 15 years according to The Associated Press which will equal some $17.1 million a season for member schools.
Yeah, this does a bit of a number on the whole Big 12 raiding the ACC thing.
Don’t worry, this won’t totally dispel the rumors. The Big 12 deal is more money overall, since they were able to go to the open market and the individual schools still can sell their Tier 3 TV rights (the ACC deal is all-encompassing). So the rumors won’t go away, particularly from wishful thinkers in the Big 12. But, nothing short of a grant of rights would do that for their conspiracy theories.
The ACC could not take their deal back to the open market, where it would have been significantly more. They were locked into their deal signed back in 2010 — just as the market really exploded. They were only allowed to reopen their deal with ESPN for renegotiations. That’s what they did, and with the addition of Pitt and Cuse, the yearly payout to the conference and members jumped from $155,000,000 to $240,000,000.
Wow. In each case, the conference gets a cut for its expenses. So the per-team jump isover $4 million (present deal paid ($12.9 million), even when you divvy it 14 ways rather than 12. So when Pitt reaches full-share status, it will receive $17.1 million/year.
Here’s the press release from ESPN.
ESPN and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) have announced an extension to their exclusive agreement through 2026-27 which will now feature several new elements designed to bring added value to ESPN and ACC fans, including more title sponsorship rights, more men’s regular-season and conference tournament basketball games, more conference football games, and dozens more Olympic sports competitions. The deal will provide premier content to numerous ESPN multimedia platforms, including ESPN, ESPN on ABC, ESPN2, WatchESPN.com, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPN 3D, ESPN Mobile TV, ESPN GamePlan, ESPN FULL COURT, ESPN Buzzer Beater/Goal Line, ESPN International, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Classic and ESPN.com.Increased InventoryThe conference’s planned increase to an 18-game conference men’s basketball schedule and the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse will bring an increase of 30 conference men’s basketball games per year and two more conference tournament games. In football, 14 more conference-controlled games will be televised each year. Per the extension, ESPN has the right to televise three Friday ACC football contests annually which will include a standing commitment from Boston College and Syracuse to each host one game as well as an afternoon or evening game on Thanksgiving Friday. Also, more women’s basketball and dozens more Olympic sports competitions will be covered on ESPN platforms representing the conference’s 25, soon to be 26, sponsored sports.Sponsorship and EnhancementsFor the first time, ESPN has acquired title sponsorship rights, subject to conference approval, beyond football to all other conference championships including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament, televised in its entirety on ESPN networks and its syndication partner Raycom, has never been sponsored in its 59-year history.John Skipper, president, ESPN and co-chair, Disney Media Networks, said, “This expansion and extension of our exclusive agreement brings tremendous value to our company and to ACC fans everywhere. We look forward to showcasing this premier conference across all platforms through 2027.”“We are excited to have further enhanced our partnership with ESPN through the extension of our multimedia contract,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “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.”ACC on ESPNESPN has been televising ACC content since 1979 and has exclusive rights to every conference-controlled football and men’s basketball game, plus women’s basketball and Olympic sports matchups, and all ACC championship events. ACC content is distributed on the widest array of multi-media platforms in the sports industry. ACC on ESPN highlights:
- Football on national TV: Extensive regular-season action on Saturday afternoon and nights, primetime Thursdays, three Fridays including Thanksgiving Friday, Labor Day Monday and the ACC Football Championship Game;
- Men’s basketball on national TV: The most comprehensive coverage of regular-season games and the entire conference tournament produced and distributed via ESPN; regular-season matchups of the storied Duke-North Carolina rivalry each year; full national telecasts on all games televised on an ESPN platform; a weekly ACC Sunday Night Basketball franchise on ESPNU;
- Women’s basketball: Numerous women’s regular-season basketball games and the entire conference tournament;
- Olympic sports: An extensive commitment to the league’s soon to be 23-sponsored Olympic sports with regular-season and championship telecasts, highlighted by baseball, softball, lacrosse, and men’s and women’s soccer;
- Digital media: Exclusive ACC football, men’s and women’s basketball, and Olympic sports games as well as simulcasts on ESPN3. Live ACC games, including football and basketball, on ESPN Mobile TV;
- ESPN 3D: Select live ACC action on ESPN 3D;
- Additional outlets: Select ACC action on ESPN International, ESPN GamePlan, ESPN FULL COURT, ESPN Classic and ESPN Deportes; and extensive content rights for ESPN.com.About the Atlantic Coast ConferenceThe Atlantic Coast Conference is now in its 59th year of competition, the ACC has long enjoyed the reputation as one of the strongest and most competitive intercollegiate conferences in the nation. Since the league’s inception in 1953, ACC schools have captured 124 national championships, including 66 in women’s competition and 58 in men’s. In addition, NCAA individual titles have gone to ACC student-athletes 142 times in men’s competition and 101 times in women’s action. For more information, visit theACC.com.
The one non-money but of major importance, aspect about this deal: the ACC is now the most tied-to-ESPN conference. The ACC gave all rights to ESPN. That means ESPN has all the inventory. Every conference football game. Between 2 extra teams, 9 conference football games and 18 conference basketball games. The ACC will be a huge presence on ESPN (for good and ill). As Frank the Tank notes, this means that the ACC has an extra shield against any potential raid.
ESPN has zero incentive to see the ACC get raided. None. Nada. Unlike its contracts with every other power conference, ESPN has complete top-to-bottom control of all ACC TV rights. This means that ESPN has more of a vested interest in the survival of the ACC specifically over every other conference – it’s the one league that the people in Bristol aren’t sharing with Fox, CBS or the Big Ten Network. In fact, think of it in these terms:
The ACC is the single largest content provider to all of the ESPN networks, whether college or pro.
Let that sink in for a moment. The ACC provides more live content to ESPN than the NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. So, do you really think ESPN wants the ACC to lose anyone, much less actually enable another league (the Big 12) to poach Jim Swofford’s gang? Is ESPN going to want to trade an entire slate of Florida State games that’s guaranteed annually in order to receive only a handful of tier 1 Seminole games that’s variable from year-to-year?
When Miami left the Big East in 2003, they turned down last-ditch efforts by the Big East to stay that included disproportionate revenue offerings that would have been greater than their share in the ACC. The key reason: stability. The money is good, but when things are roughly equal, stability is a deciding factor. This deal creates even greater stability for Pitt and the ACC.
This is not a grant of rights to Tier 1 and 2 media rights by the member schools to the Big 12 to lock in the schools. Something that was needed to quell fears of teams fleeing. Instead, it is protection and guarantees of exposure on the biggest force in sports media.