As was heavily documented yesterday, the ACC‘s Council of Presidents issued a joint statement of solidarity, expressing their desire to work together to continue building a stronger athletic conference. The statement, which was backed by all 11 current committed members and all four future members, read:
“We, the undersigned presidents of the Atlantic Coast Conference, wish to express our commitment to preserve and protect the future of our outstanding league. We want to be clear that the speculation about ACC schools in negotiations or considering alternatives to the ACC are totally false. The presidents of the ACC are united in our commitment to a strong and enduring conference. The ACC has long been a leader in intercollegiate athletics, both academically and athletically, and the constitution of our existing and future member schools will maintain the ACC’s position as one of the nation’s premier conferences.”
Unfortunately for those of us who are rooting for the ACC’s survival, the answer may be a resounding no, based on similar statements in the past, by other leagues feeling the expansion pressure. A sampling:
- Following Syracuse and Pitt‘s departures to the ACC, the Big East’s remaining membership (including Notre Dame and Louisville) publicly pledge solidarity to the league as it moves forward.
- With rumors that Texas A&M is planning to defect, the remaining nine Big 12 members pledge solidarity, and express a desire to keep the Aggies around. Missouri, who would also leave a few months later, is part of this statement.
- After watching Nebraska and Colorado leave the Big 12, the 10 remaining members (including A&M and Mizzou) state their public commitment to the continuation and stability of the conference.
Does this mean that the ACC is doomed? Hardly. It’s still an incredibly strong league; one that possesses some of the strongest brands in college athletics and also has a pretty hefty $50 million exit fee attached to teams’ departure as well. And while the Big East was certainly dead in the water when their statement went out, the Big 12 ended up losing four teams and yet is still thriving today. They also had/have a grant of rights that locks up media rights for 13 years, which you’d think would’ve prevented any and all defections the second time around. So much for that…
Realistically, I do believe that the ACC is done losing teams for the time being, but in no way will that protect the league forever. While the conference is strong, there are plenty of issues left to resolve — an ACC cable network, a potential grant of rights agreement for the remainder of its television contract (same as the Big Ten and Big 12), enforcement of the $50M exit fee and third-party rights issued back to the schools. At least two of those are doable, and maybe a divisional realignment better suited to generate regional rivalries could also work to keep everyone happy. I’ve said this elsewhere, but it’s worth restating here too: Schools do not WANT to change conferences, especially when they’re already in one of the Power Five leagues. It’s a hefty time and financial investment, and they’d prefer the league they were in just do more to solidify itself. Maryland, swimming in a sea of debt, was an exception. They HAD TO leave, or else the university’s entire athletic department would’ve collapsed under the weight of football. For schools like Nebraska or Texas A&M, their choices were based on a perceived inequality in their previous leagues, and then aided by a financial windfall afterward.
Hoping I’m right, and the league rectifies its glaring issues, and the statement of solidarity is legit. We’ll see, though. As we all know, you’re never really sure of anything with conference realignment…