While all things realignment have seemed to simmer down at the moment, there have been steady rumblings that the Big Ten has its sights on expanding to 16. Why? More money comes with more markets and the ACC has some apparently for the taking. The ACC Presidents came out this week and pledged their loyalties to the league. While that is just lip service, it was reported that FSU, Clemson, and other schools at the center of realignment rumors spearheaded the charge for the commitment. Speculation has swirled around the Big Ten being interested in scooping up Georgia Tech and its Atlanta market along with Boston College (Boston), or Virginia. Can the ACC do anything to stop them from joining the Midwestern mammoth other than potentially their $50 million buy-out? That’s literally the multi-million dollar question. All conference eyes will be on the courts as they rule on the outcome in the coming weeks. If they hold Maryland to the maximum, any ACC school poaching is out the window. If you think about it – even if UofM’s penalty is half – a cool $25 million would be nearly impossible for most schools to come up with and/or an amount a new league would want to pay for a new member. Grant of Rights is something three conferences (Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12) have to ensure members don’t leave. What is GOR and how is it different from an exit fee? Matt Tait of KUSports.com explains:
Grant of Rights agreement is written permission by members of a conference to hand over control of their television rights to the conference for the agreed-upon term. Unlike exit fees, which are liquidated damages and can be negotiated in court and proven to be valid or invalid, the GOR agreement is not up for interpretation, according to a report written by Mit Winter of BuisnessofCollegeSports.com. It stands to reason then, that it is much more likely to hold up in court as a legitimate, enforceable contract.
Grant of Rights in the Big 12 keeps the league intact and discourages other conferences from trying to grab its schools. The main reason the Big 12 has been sitting on their hands is because there isn’t a school that would add enough value to their TV contract to keep their members happy and still bring in $20 million per school.
Considering the value of the Big 12’s current TV contracts, along with the revenue that is soon to come as a result of the conference’s partnership with the SEC that created the Champions Bowl, each member of the Big 12 is looking at a guaranteed take of nearly $30 million per year for the length of the contracts.
That sets the bar awfully high for the Big 12 to even entertain the idea of expanding.
“If you’re thinking about taking two schools you’ve gotta go to your TV partners and say, ‘We’re taking these two schools in; we want $60 million more.’ It ain’t gonna happen,” a Big 12 administrator said.
Because most high-ranking officials within the Big 12 don’t believe that any schools out there are worth that kind of money.
And why not?
Because that’s what the television partners say.
Mentioned above, the ACC Presidents are committed to the league, but does that really matter if the 14 ACC schools all don’t agree to sign a GOR? That seems to be the real binding agreement in the current realignment era. Currently, the ACC’s television contract will pay out $17.1 million per team annually. That’s up from $13 million before Pitt and Syracuse were added. The TV deal should be bumped up again with part-time Notre Dame and Louisville joining. Should the ACC make a move to become the first ‘Super Conference’ at 16? Nobody from the Big Ten or SEC would come because they make too much money. The Big 12 has the GOR protecting that league so you can cross them off the list as well. 14 appears to be a solid number for now, but that is subject to change if the SEC and Big Ten act. If those leagues do expand, ACC schools will be the target, but as long as FSU, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Miami stay in the fold the ACC will be fine. The Big 12 would be the major player for them, but they still don’t look like they want other teams coming in and dividing up more of the pie. So, where does that leave the ACC in regards to further strengthening the league? Here are the scenarios:
1. Add UConn and Cincinnati and become the first ‘Super Conference’. The TV deal would be renegotiated and it could receive a bump if the New Haven (#30) and Cincy (#34) markets were added. Adding basketball powers Louisville, Syracuse, Pitt, UConn, and UC could be used in sweetening the pot because without a doubt, the ACC would continue to be the nation’s elite basketball conference. Also, with Notre Dame in the league and playing 5 ACC schools annually in football, ESPN would pay more, right? But, would adding UConn and UC make football powers FSU and Clemson want to exit?
2. Entice Notre Dame to join in football. Yeah right, especially with the Irish making it to the national title game as an independent this year. Would ND be willing to make some financial concessions in order to keep others from leaving? Only if they wanted the ACC to prosper, thus allowing them to stay in a league that doesn’t require them to join in football.
3. Maryland is challenging the $50 million buy-out, why not put the Big 12′s GOR to the test? Tell Texas to bring their Longhorn Network with them (the ACC was rumored to be talking with UT a couple of years ago). Ask WVU to come along to make 16.
It all comes down to the power hungry Big Ten and SEC. If they want to add, they will and it more than likely be a school from the ACC. In this ever-changing game of conference realignment, nobody is safe. Let’s see where the ACC falls when the media rights deal is renegotiated again and go from there. All this could be moot if the ACC schools can sign a GOR.