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The Confidential

The ACC Sports Blog

Conference Realignment–ACC Needs to be Wary of History Repeating Itself

Frank the Tank has a new entry for your perusal.  In this latest blog entry, the opinion is that Fox, rather than ESPN, is responsible for the demise of the Big East.  The Confidential disagrees.  Moreover, the Confidential cannot help but think that the ACC needs to be very wary of the destruction of the Big East to prevent, to the extent possible, the demise of our great conference.

As a preliminary matter, there is no doubt that Fox’s entry into the sports networking landscape has been a contributing factor.  If nothing else, the partnership with the Big 10 has dramatically altered the college sports landscape.   Fox’s role in conference realignment is obvious.

But the demise of the Big East began long before the loss of Rutgers, Maryland/Louisville, Notre Dame, and the Catholic-7.  Rather, the demise began with the loss of Pittsburgh and Syracuse.  And, really, the loss of Pittsburgh and Syracuse began with the inability of ESPN and the Big East to negotiate a restructured deal.  While ESPN was willing to ride the Longhorn Network into town to save the Big XII, ESPN did not bother to do anything to save the Big East from demise.  Rather, it allowed (directed?) it’s partner, the ACC, to take two of the Big East’s most valuable properties–Syracuse and Pittsburgh.  Even if Fox was behind every other move that decimated the Big East (see West Virginia, TCU, Maryland, and Rutgers), the reality is that ESPN never stepped up to the plate to save the Big East.

As ESPN continues to lose the rights to major college programs, one wonders if ESPN is going to go the route of MTV.  Once, MTV showed videos… with an occasional non-video show sprinkled in.  At some point, MTV stopped showing videos.  And it’s been decades since this author has cared about MTV.  Every pass through revealed less about “music” and more about reality TV.  Presumably, MTV is still profitable and pleasing to its owners.  Is ESPN going to follow suit and devote more resources to news & shows where reporters yell at each other?   It certainly runs contrary to the prevailing logic that live sports are among the best television products out there because people cannot fast forward through the commercials.

In any event, the question that begs is whether ESPN will step up to the plate to “save the ACC.”   ESPN helped save the Big XII.  But, with every program that moves from the ACC to the Big XII or Big 10, ESPN will lose the exclusive rights to that school.  And one wonders whether Fox will be content to allow ESPN to share in the Big XII and Big 10.  If this is a business battle between Fox and ESPN, Fox seems to be winning.  The Big East was “collateral damage” in that battle.  The ACC needs to ensure that ESPN does not view the ACC as collateral damage.  It is unclear exactly what the ACC can do… but at least being wary of ESPN and history repeating itself is a very small step one.

What do YOU think?  Is ESPN working for or against the ACC these days?


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11 thoughts on “Conference Realignment–ACC Needs to be Wary of History Repeating Itself

  1. ESPN is only working for themselves up to this point. If I remember correctly with the Big XII, I don’t think ESPN increased the pay (except for holding up the LHN, of course). I think it was Fox who stepped in and overpaid to keep the XII together. Now Fox has also overpaid to get market share with the Pac-12 and Big Ten, and has shown interest in the C-7 also. No doubt, Fox is “winning” right now.

    I think the shot that will tell the tale is when the Big Ten’s regular (non-BTN) contract comes up for renewal. If they sign exclusively with Fox, then ESPN will have to decide what they want to be.

    As for the ACC, I think there are still some pretty good cards remaining to be played. I don’t think the league is totally at the mercy of ESPN, but I do think they are partners who are very much “in bed” with each other – for better or worse at this point.

    • I am not saying that ESPN needs to work for the ACC’s benefit. But either ESPN does not know how to win this battle with Fox or it does not care whether it wins this battle with Fox. Neither is a great situation.

  2. If ESPN was thinking long-term, they would be working really hard to save the conference. Best media markets, best basketball, best baseball, best lacrosse, best soccer, best academics, TONS of football potential. There’s just not a compelling reason FOR the ACC to die. The football will come around eventually and stability will help build a stronger brand.

    It sickens me that most of the major players in all of this realignment stuff are fellow Tar Heels. If John Skipper (President of ESPN) and Jim Delaney (Commissioner of the Big Ten) really cared about their alma mater they would put an end to all of this. So would John Swofford (our own commissioner). UNC doesn’t belong in the Big Ten OR in a watered down ACC. This is a school with 38 NCAA Championships, 250 ACC Championships and an endowment of over $2 billion. It’s a Southern school, NOT a mid-western school. It’s MY school. And I know fans of the other ACC schools feel the same way about their own school. We ALL deserve better.

    Will fans be better served by a bigger Big 10 with watered down rivalries, expansive geography and a name that continues to make less sense each year? No way. Are Missouri and Texas A&M actually in the Southeast? No. Do all of the ACC schools sit in states that touch the Atlantic Coast? Not soon they won’t.

    Realignment is ridiculous and short-sighted. More money can be made in the long run by grouping together schools that actually have something in common and care about each other. It’s already gotten out of hand and it needs to stop.

    • Agreed. It is one thing for a team to leave a dying conference for more stability. It is another to leave simply because you can make a few more bucks (Maryland).

      I’d love to see the federal government start taxing the hell out of TV revenue for these schools. Anything over $25M. We just need a ceiling to keep things from getting ridiculous. If the schools want to be businesses, then be businesses. But be taxed like it.

      Schools with hundreds of millions, if not billions, in endowments chasing after a few million dollars in TV revenue. Unreal.

  3. Vinnie Saltine on said:

    I’m of the opinion that ESPN has such a lock on the market, that they’re simply not going to over-reach for regular programming assets (unless it prevents apocolyptic conference meltdown).

    Instead, they are focusing more on the really big games (the BCS bowls) and the SEC where they can maximize the advertising dollars and get the biggest audiences.

    If Fox, NBC, or CBS want to pay too much for first tier rights, then that’s their perogative; but ESPN has been doing this for 30+ years, they have a model that works and enough filler to supply 4 different channels with sports content. Afterall, they still get to air the best parts of all the other games on Sportscenter, then talk about them ad nausiem on ESPN radio.

    Secondly, and more importantly, I think that ESPN is less interested in broadcasting games on TV, and more interested in the future of broadcasting on the internet. ESPN3 and ESPN360 have been so far ahead of the curve (notably since 80% of the commercials during games is for ESPN). I’m not sure how that plays into the 1st/2nd/3rd tier rights…

  4. Vinnie, so based on your premise above…what is the outcome for ACC on TV dollars…going to increase or not?

    • Another discussion point…has Swofford gone under cover…nothing from ACC on the following: TV renegotiation with Notre Dame as associate; nothing on TV network, nothing on realignment…..NOTHING…why hasnt the ACC conference been more pro PR…is there nothing good happening?

    • Vinnie Saltine on said:

      If the Catholic-7 can get $4M/team (as some have rumored), then there is no doubt that the ACC is undervaluing their basketball side. I could easily see $6-8M/team in the ACC basketball/olympic sports, and another $12-14M on the football side. Which, when you add in the dollars that ACC will get from the Orange Bowl, would put them much more on par with the other “Big 5” conferences.

      The ACC may be able to renegotiate because of the addition of ND (and to a lesser extent the L’Ville/MD swap).

      At the very least, if ESPN will not give more money to the conference then they really need to have an ESPN channel dedicated to the ACC with the ability to put the best games on ABC.

      Yes, the BigXII would still get more money per year…but the exposure that the ACC teams get would be remarkable.

      • Exposure does not pay the bills….and unfortunately that is the cover the BE is talking with its low NBC offer that most likely will fly at under $25mm a year for conference…tbut hey are going to get exposure…..if the ACC does not renegotiate with ESPN a higher TV worth, I have doubts the conference survives as we know it

        • Vinnie Saltine on said:

          NBC is low-balling the Big East because 1) they are an unknown commodity (how do you place a value on an untested, unknown product?), and 2) there is very little competition for their media rights.

          However, NBC’s gamble could pay dividends if the increased exposure results in better quality of play. Will recruits want to come to the new Big East if they can play on NBC? That’s the Billion dollar question.

          If ESPN is not going to pony-up the $$$ for the ACC, then the next best thing would be maximum exposure.

          I’m not convinced that a failure to renegotiate the ACC/ESPN deal is a death knell for the ACC, although it certainly provides ample fodder for bloggers to speculate.

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