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April 23, 2013

The Grant of Rights put in place by the ACC does not stop expansiopocolypse. It does, however, severely slow it down and minimize it. The movement in the next five to ten years will almost entirely be by conferences and programs below the Big Five.

Oh, sure, it’s possible at some point that the Big 12 feels it has no choice but to actually go to 12, at which time it goes for Cinci and BYU or some other team from the Mountain West (Boise St.). And it is conceivable that the Big Ten could go to Mizzou and say, yeah, come into our playground — since the SEC does not have any exit fees or penalties.

And, yes, there is always a chance that some program locked into a Grant of Rights might mount a legal challenge. But unlike a challenge to an exit fee like Maryland is engaged, losing the challenge to a Grant of Rights contract is much bigger. Even if a challenge to the ACC Grant of Rights came with five years left (2023), the potential loss by the school challenging is $100 million. Not many schools are going to make that gamble.

But that is about it. Things are relatively locked in right now. There will be no easy way for the major conferences to poach teams from each other while the Grant of Rights (GoR) are in place. The Big 12 is at 10. The Big Ten will be 14.

As usual there is more to the story than mere stability.

There’s considering how we got to this point. The ACC went from wobbly to more solid and stable than the Big 12. The GoR made that obvious to everyone, but it happened well before yesterday’s announcement.

As a college football fan and one who has seen the Notre Dame take advantage of its position as an independent affiliated with the Big East, my initial feelings towards the lifeline by the ACC to the Domers was of annoyance and a little anger. The details, however, made it almost a beneficial arrangement. Notre Dame doesn’t get the free cut it got in the Big East. It has to play everyone in the ACC. It has to play five ACC games every year. All home-and-home. It gives ever program a marquee, national game every three years. It satisfies programs like FSU, VT, GT and Clemson that balked at the 9-game conference schedule.

It also ticked off the Big Ten as the dissolution of the Big East was probably their best chance to finally force ND into their sphere. Now that window has closed for another ten years or so. A point where ND giving up its GoR revenue from basketball would be tolerable and near the point where their latest NBC contract would be getting to an end. ND really is the Big Ten’s Brigadoon.

The loss of Maryland was an emotional loss for the ACC. A founding member. A program that was near the center of the conference. Pitt fans found it especially disconcerting because there was a sense among a significant number that Maryland could become Pitt’s ACC rival. Instead Maryland along with Rutgers may be cashing big checks in a couple years but will be in a division that has Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State. Good luck with relevance in football and even basketball.

But the move to take Louisville was an especially shrewd move. The athletic programs more than make up for any loss of Maryland. By doing so, they cut out one of the most obvious future members of the Big 12. Plus, UConn remains floating out in limbo as a back-up if ever needed.

The other thing the GoR does, brings in more money.

The deal runs through 2027, which is concurrent with the league’s contract with ESPN. The ACC and ESPN reached a new deal before the 2012 season that pays each school an estimated $17 million annually. With the addition of Notre Dame to the conference this summer in all sports but football, that number could creep even higher.

ND coming early helps, but a jump to $20 million starting this year doesn’t happen just from that.

Cue the puppet master.

“There are three things that FSU is keenly interested in,” [FSU President Eric] Barron added. “One is stability, a second is that we have revenues that are competitive and a third is to have what will be an ACC Network that helps further our brand and also adds resources.

“So from my perspective, the discussions with ESPN, these three things all fit together.”

There is speculation that the grant of media rights deal is just a precursor to an ACC cable network that will be operated in part by ESPN. The ACC Network would mirror what the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 have with other cable entities.

Back in January, the idea of the ACC Network first began to receive its vetting.

The ACC has formed a committee of athletic directors and hired Wasserman Media Group to explore the financial benefits of launching its own conference network.

While its media rights are tied up with ESPN for the next 15 years, that hasn’t stopped the conference from beginning the process of deciding whether such a channel is feasible. It hasn’t had formal talks with ESPN, which would have to play a big role in any ACC channel since the network controls the league’s rights.

But ACC Commissioner John Swofford has quietly been exploring a branded channel and began floating the idea for it in the fall, around the time that Notre Dame joined the league in all sports but football.

Any ACC Network needs the blessing of ESPN. The ACC has all of its TV rights tied up with ESPN, so launching a channel this decade needs ESPN as a partner.

What’s interesting in the comments from Barron — and what others seem to be implying — is that ESPN has gotten a little sick of the whole expansiopocolypse. In no small part because the realignment of conferences reopens the media deals. It means more payouts and contracts not getting to run their course. By having the ACC also get a GoR, suddenly all five major conferences are in a forced stability for most of the contracts.

Getting that stability still comes at a price for ESPN. In this case it appears to be helping to launch the ACC Network. Which also makes sense for how FSU, Clemson and GT — programs considered most willing to leave the ACC — suddenly are willing to lock themselves into the ACC for 15 years. That doesn’t happen unless they know the ACC pie is going to be getting bigger.

Excellent post Chas!

Comment by Pitt Fan In Atlanta 04.23.13 @ 7:52 am

I find the ACC Network to be much ado about nothing. For increased cable fees, we may get to see Pitt play Akron in FB and Coppin St in BB .. although in fairness, we will see our nationally ranked BB team in action (but look for lacrosse and soccer to also dominate the programming.)

Of course, that is for those of you that live in the eastern seaboard and Pgh. I won’t have to worry about it here on the North Coast.

Now if the income from the network leads to increased recruiting budget and coaching salaries, then I’m all for it.

Comment by wbb 04.23.13 @ 8:29 am

Pitt sports landed in a perfect spot. Now
use the proceeds to make the respective
teams competitive. Count me as one who
wishes WVU had been invited to join us.
Missing component in all of this is losing
oldest rival. Suggest the Cuse becomes
the final game of each season. We need
a traditional final game rival.

Comment by JR 04.23.13 @ 8:34 am

The lack of a heated conference rival does sting a bit all things considered, but my distaste and over all indifference for what happens to the hoopies makes me care less if they ever see Pitt on a field or court again…

As far as Cuse is concerened, the intensity is definitely there on the court, and Boeheim is an easy target to dislike. I just don’t know if that rivalry transfers onto the football field. I see VTech or Miami as perhaps better possibilities, rekindling former rivalries. Throw that Miami game on the Friday after Turkey day every year and we might have something….

Comment by BostonsCommon 04.23.13 @ 9:26 am

miami will never be a rival, FSU and Miami will never come close to miami pitt. loosing wvu and nd sucks in all of this. i wish peterson would schedule wvu every year either the 1st or last game of the season. we need them as much they need us.

Comment by mike 04.23.13 @ 9:57 am

Now that Netflix has more subscribers than HBO, the era of a la carte television is getting closer. ESPN, by facilitating the creation of an ACC network, is positioning itself to have more stratified product to sell.

Great write-up Chas.

Comment by Pitt Dad 04.23.13 @ 10:06 am

Texas and Oklahoma were not in the same conference for 80% of their 110 games or so. Georgia and Georgia tech are not in same conference …. same for FSU – Florida … Clemson – So Carolina …. USC-ND.

I would prefer PSU every Sept (or Thanksgiving weekend) .. but WVU will do.

Comment by wbb 04.23.13 @ 10:28 am

Given that they are geographically isolated in their new conference home, I say let the Hoopies whither on the vine. For recruiting purposes, there is NO reason to give them another game each year that is within driving distance of Morgantown.

Comment by Jrmutley 04.23.13 @ 10:40 am

I always liked the rotating PSU ND WVU 3 year schedule, but I’d prefer PSU every year with PSU and ND every 3rd.

Comment by Benzene 04.23.13 @ 11:10 am

Excellent post, Chas.

I agree with Pitt Dad that this brings us one step closer to a la carte television. SHould be interesting to see how that affects BTN – would love nothing more than to have that removed from my monthly bill.

Comment by JLawrence 04.23.13 @ 11:25 am

info for you
jamie dixon at christ the king today a last
minute push to try to and get jon severe.

pitt has offered a 6 foot 6 PF for 2014
from same jc school as uchebo

DUQUESNE has signed a 6 foot 11 center
from img academy darrius lewis.

Comment by FRANKCAN 04.23.13 @ 11:26 am

Would love to see an ACC Network. I occasional check out the Big 10 Network and I like what they have to offer. Spring games, baseball, football specials, track, basketball specials, olympic sports, etc. It would be great to see Pitt sports broadcast in that manner.

Comment by notrocketscience 04.23.13 @ 12:33 pm

Duke coming to the Pete next year…

link to

Comment by milo bloom 04.23.13 @ 1:10 pm

info for who ever cares abought BB and it seams
most dont.
ny post says jon severe will go to rutgers or
it is one thing to be beat out bye rutgers
but fordham fordham give me a brake what is up with

Comment by FRANKCAN 04.23.13 @ 1:18 pm

well for one thing, Severe appears to want to stay home. Otherwise, don’t know

Comment by wbb 04.23.13 @ 2:05 pm

eli carter the guard from rutgers had a in home vist from pitt to day,
i guess pitt did not belive it when he said he would not play for them.
good job dixon make him change his mind.

Comment by FRANKCAN 04.23.13 @ 3:20 pm

DeJuan Blair borrowed $53,000 in jewelry from a San Antonio jeweler three years ago. He finally agreed to pay back what he owes.
link to

Comment by TonyinHouston 04.23.13 @ 6:19 pm

Love the spring game stories posted by Hickman-Casazza-and the like statewide re: the no chicklit crew down by Cheat Lake. Holgie better pull a rabbit or two out of his hat because the whiskey bottles/garbage cans will come flying his way with tooo much loosing. Pitt needs to do everything it can to lock them out of playing anybody in the ACC. Sure that the Cardinals, Cavs and Hokies would agree. That no ethics slime Tony Gibson flipped two Arizona recruits on Dickrod, LOL! GoR only adds to the eer misery! Yes! H2P UPone

Comment by UPone 04.23.13 @ 7:36 pm

I agree with JR…Pitt should do whatever it takes to continue the Backyard Brawl…and play after Thanksgiving if possible. You can’t just replace a century old rivalry. Who is PSU’s rival in the BIG after almost 20 years?

Comment by HbgFrank 04.23.13 @ 7:59 pm

Thanks for the info, FRANKCAN. Worked a long day and then went to see my son play T-ball. Just now catching up.

Comment by panther94 04.23.13 @ 8:09 pm

@HbgFrank. Forget WVU. It makes no sense. We don’t need to throw them a lifeline. We need to take this opportunity to out-recruit WVU and Penn St. I don’t see it yet, but I would think, given the circumstances, that we could.

Comment by panther94 04.23.13 @ 8:12 pm

upone is right the hell with wvu hope we never
play them.
bring PSU back for a home and home every year
there is pitt rival.
screw the ridge runners dont need them dont want

Comment by FRANKCAN 04.23.13 @ 8:12 pm

@FRANKCAN, great minds…

Comment by panther94 04.23.13 @ 8:15 pm

HbgFrank, if by do whatever it takes to continue the Backyard Brawl you meant to play Penn State every year, then I’m all for it.

If you meant to play them both every year, I can live with that too.

But if you meant to play those couch-burning knuckleheads from Morgantown INSTEAD of the Nits? Then no thanks.

Comment by Imma Man! Im 40! 04.23.13 @ 8:16 pm

panther94 i have outher BB stuff but you seam
to be the only one that for you i will post one of the 3 things i have.

lennard freeman arrives in town on april 24
he moved up the date that he would come it had been
may 3.
he is the 6 foot 9 PF he is now a priority for
pitt becuse so many outhers have told us
thanks but no thanks hope we get him.

Comment by FRANKCAN 04.23.13 @ 8:37 pm

You’re the man, FRANKCAN. Thanks again.

Comment by panther94 04.23.13 @ 8:38 pm

PSU will never play Pitt every year again. BIG is going to a 9 game conference schedule (Delaney has said 10 could happen down the line). PSU needs (wants) 7 home games per year. Taken together, these things assure Pitt and PSU will never play an ongoing home and away schedule again. Some of you sound like those arrogant PSU fans that have said for years “Screw Pitt, why should we help their recruiting by playing them?” I’ll give all of you the best reason there is for Pitt and WVU to play every year: 13 – 9! Ain’t that right WVU fans?

Comment by HbgFrank 04.23.13 @ 9:40 pm

Sorry, doesn’t cut it for me.

Comment by panther94 04.23.13 @ 11:26 pm

NCAA should require every conference to leave room for 4-OOC games, at least two of which must be against major opponents, IMHO. They could implement this either by a prohibition on scheduling more than 8 conference games or by expanding the season to 13 games and prohibiting a conference schedule of more than 9 games. This would be best for college football fans by making possible the continuation or renewal of annual traditional rivalry games. Unfortunately, preserving and renewing traditional rivalries doesn’t seem to matter to the NCAA; and that’s truly sad, IMO.

Comment by pitt1972 04.24.13 @ 8:59 am

pitt1972 – I don’t think a 13 game schedule is the right thing to do. The demands on the players, who at least are to try to be students as well are enough already, especially considering the number of bowl games which make the season 13 games long already for most schools. I’d prefer to limit the conf games to 9 and keep a 12 game schedule. If Pitt wants to renew old rivalries, alternating Hoopies and Poopies every other year would be enough for me. I’d prefer we develop new ACC based rivalries, say with VT, than try to resuscitate ones that are dead. 7 home games are important for the budget which makes it even harder to get big OOC games scheduled because they have to be home/home.

Comment by Taxing Matters 04.24.13 @ 10:23 am

I would be happy to play psu home and home but with at least a one or two year hiatus before playing the next home and home. As for wvu let them wallow in the Texas conference.

Also want our best rivalries to come from our new conference. We evidently will be there for some time…

Comment by Kenny 04.24.13 @ 12:39 pm

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