Stanford, Cal, SMU Heading to ACC in Latest Round of Collegiate Realignment

Posted on: September 5, 2023, 08:27h. 

Last updated on: September 6, 2023, 06:58h.

The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is expanding, with additions approved last week of Stanford, the University of California, Berkeley (Cal), and Southern Methodist University (SMU).

Stanford Quarterback Ashton Daniels
Stanford quarterback Ashton Daniels throws a pass during the recent game against Hawaii, pictured above. Stanford, Cal, and SMU are each heading to the ACC as the league’s newest members. (Image: Getty Images)

The three universities will join the league next summer in time for the 2024-25 football season. The move will bring the total number of conference members to 18, including Notre Dame, which remains independent in football.

On Friday, presidents representing the current members voted by a 12-to-3 margin for the additions. Clemson, Florida State, and the University of North Carolina reportedly were opposed. North Carolina State flipped its opposition at the last minute.

Approval also was given by the ACC board of directors, led by the University of Virginia’s well-regarded president, James Ryan.

The decision came after a month of closed-door and reportedly tense deliberations in which compromises were made on revenue payouts to the new members.

Money Talks

Under the deal, Stanford and Cal, both academic powerhouses with large financial endowments, will get paid lower media rights revenue of about 30%, Yahoo Sports reported. They will direct some revenue to the conference for a decade, according to ESPN. In the 10th year, they will receive all allotted media revenue.

But SMU won’t take any media rights revenue from the conference for nine years, CBS Sports revealed. However, the report added that the university will get money from the college football playoffs, the NCAA tournament, and bowl games during the period.

The ACC will likely receive about $72M more in media rights revenue due to the addition of the three universities, CBS Sports reported. Some conference revenue may be distributed based on the merit of individual teams. ACC members, such as Florida State, have complained about getting insufficient payouts compared to other conferences, such as the Big 10 or the SEC.

Earlier this year, seven members of the ACC, looking to increase their revenue, were reportedly searching for ways to bolt to another conference. The ACC’s grant of rights over media revenue is a stumbling block for any possible move.

Travel Time

The recent addition of two California-based universities and one based in Texas, SMU, means longer travel times for collegiate athletes heading to games. Most of the ACC’s members are campuses on or near the East Coast.

But overall, the ACC is putting a positive spin on the additions.

“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,” ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said in a statement.

Throughout the evaluation process, the ACC Board of Directors, led by President 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.”

The additions to the ACC impact other conferences, too. SMU is leaving the American Athletic Conference (AAC). Cal and Stanford are exiting the sinking Pac-12 conference.

The only members who will remain at the Pac-12 are Oregon State and Washington State. Both need homes and may wind up in the Mountain West or the American Athletic Conferences.

National Picture

Other universities nationally are continuing to search for conference affiliations. The University of Connecticut (UConn), which was considered for the Big 12 and the ACC at different times, still remains independent in football and affiliated with the Big East for most other sports.

The University of South Florida, San Diego State University, Tulane, and Army may add to other college conferences.

Nationally, Utah, Colorado, Arizona State, and Arizona are heading to the Big 12 from the Pac-12. UCLA and the University of Southern California are heading to the Big Ten. Texas and Oklahoma are leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference (SEC).