ACC schools agree to stiffer exit penalties
The 15 schools that will make up the ACC beginning in 2014 took a bold move to solidify the league’s future on Monday.
Each school — including newcomers Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and 2014 entrant Louisville — signed a grant of media rights deal that, effective immediately, would make it cost prohibitive for any school to leave the conference.
The league’s Council of Presidents signed the deal, which was announced by the ACC on Monday.
Already in place for schools in the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences, the grant of media rights deal means any future media income the schools would receive after leaving the conference would be owed to the ACC.
“This announcement further highlights the continued solidarity and commitment by our member institutions,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “The Council of Presidents has shown tremendous leadership in insuring the ACC is extremely well positioned with unlimited potential.”
Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said the agreement, along with the ACC’s existing deal with ESPN, makes Monday a monumental day in the league’s 60-year history.
“It is one of the great days in the history of our conference, as it shows the highest level of commitment — not by words, but by actions,” Krzyzewski said. “With all the uncertainty regarding conference affiliations the past several years in college athletics, this announcement, coupled with our media rights deal with the world’s best sports broadcasting network, secures the ACC’s future, and thus Duke’s, for years to come.”
Ever since Maryland announced in November that it was bolting the ACC to join the Big Ten in 2014, the ACC was viewed as a league vulnerable to having its schools poached by other conferences.
Maryland officials said the Big Ten promised it far more annual income from media rights — the league’s projections have each school eventually making as much as $43 million — and thus staying in an unstable ACC was not prudent for the school.
Monday’s ACC grant of media rights agreement, according to several sources, pegs the annual income to each ACC school in excess of $20 million.
That puts the ACC on par with the Big 12, trailing only the Big Ten and SEC.
“The net result of these negotiations, spearheaded by the determined leadership of Commissioner Swofford, is that the ACC is now in a prime media rights position among its peers and partnered with the preeminent sports broadcasting entity on the planet, ESPN,” Duke athletics director Kevin White said in a statement. “Historically speaking, this is nothing short of a lasting ‘game changer’ for the ACC’s colleges and universities.”
The ACC’s current media rights deal with ESPN is worth $3.6 billion over 15 years, expiring in 2026-27. Signed this past May, that breaks down to $17.1 million per school. Just two years earlier, the ACC and ESPN had agreed to a deal that paid out $12.9 million per school.
Since the deal was signed, the ACC has added Notre Dame for all league-sponsored sports but football. The league also picked up Louisville as a replacement for Maryland.
The ACC now stands to bring in even more than that $17.1 per school, sources have placed that number at more than $20 million now, with Notre Dame and Louisville in the fold. The grant of rights deal only makes the ACC more attractive to media partners.
“These are strong and definitive moves by the ACC and its member schools to further announce our desire to stay together and position ourselves among the top conferences in the country,” UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham said. “We look forward to continued talks with the ACC and ESPN on how to best strengthen and position our multi-media package.”
The next step in enhancing the multi-media package is for the league to launch its own network. The Big Ten was the pioneer in that area, teaming with Fox Sports to launch the Big Ten Network in 2007.
The SEC and ESPN have agreed to launch The SEC Network this year.
The ACC and ESPN have discussed an ACC Network and, sources said, momentum is building toward an agreement. White is playing an important role in the negotiations.
But even before that deal is completed, Monday became a day to celebrate stability around the league.
“The ACC has established itself as the premier conference in the country, and today’s news further exemplifies the solidarity of its member institutions,” Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe said. “Obviously, from a media rights perspective, ESPN is the pinnacle of the broadcast industry and we’re thrilled to continue this terrific partnership with them in the future.”
Any talk of programs leaving the ACC should disappear, Cunningham said.
“The ACC has been one of the premier academic and athletic conferences for 60 years, and its membership going forward only strengthens and advances our standing among our national peers,” Cunningham said. “(Monday’s) announcement should put (conference) realignment on the shelf.
“It’s time to put the focus back on celebrating the successes of our students and teams.”