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Conference Expansion is Over? Post Grant-of-Rights Moves for the ACC

In case you haven’t heard the big news (see tjcuseacc’s post below), the presidents of the ACC unanimously agreed to sign their media rights away to the conference through the 2026-2027 season today. Yes, even Notre Dame (without football, of course). That’s huge. Now if anyone wants to leave, we can basically still own them even though they’ll be playing other teams. So go ahead, Virginia. If you want to travel and play Indiana instead of Duke you can. But it’ll cost you.

This is the “Grant of Rights” thing that had the entire Internet proclaiming the safety of the Texas (Big) 12, even though they’re about as stable as a broken chair. Despite our huge media markets, overall athletic quality and strong history, it’s the only thing that basically separated us from this level of security. But the gap has been closed.

So take a deep breath. Not only does this pretty much kill all of the WVU-blogger talk that our league is about to explode, but it gives us all hope for the future. How about that, Maryland? So what’s next? The league’s leaders have certainly come a long way in the last few months- inviting Louisville (which looks like the smartest move EVER now), pledging solidarity, announcing the creation of a network study….but there’s a lot more to do.

1) Create the ACC Network- We all knew that it was only a matter of time, and the grant-of-rights is exactly what ESPN has been waiting for. If the network didn’t think that the teams were committed to each other, why would they have wanted to throw a lot of money in our direction? They wouldn’t have…but now they can. What television network wouldn’t want a strong presence in Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, DC, Richmond, Raleigh/Durham, Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami, Louisville? Right. This is pretty much a no-brainer. Yes, the Worldwide Leader has pledged a lot of money to the SEC through its own network. But a lot of the markets overlap, and if bundled together, ESPN would have a hold of the preeminent football and basketball brands in all of college sports. We already knew that the league was studying this. We weren’t sure if ESPN is interested. But after today, they pretty much have to be.

2)  Divisional Realignment/Addition of More League Games in Football- It’s not a secret that most fans don’t like the Atlantic and Coastal divisions. It’s not really the names. They actually make sense, unlike the soon-to-be-defunct “Legends” and “Leaders” in the Confidential’s least-favorite conference. But what should the league do? North and South divisions aren’t really feasible, even if they seem obvious. Every team that would be in the “North” division wants to play a Florida team each year. Recruiting IS important, after all. And slotting Miami into the North, while sensible, due to their Big East roots, seems awkward. You can’t move Virginia Tech either. The Hokies LEFT left the Big East so they could play more Southern teams; they don’t want to be in the North. That and John Swofford doesn’t want to make his most consistent team unhappy. Especially when they have a spot waiting for them in the SEC, grant-of-rights notwithstanding. Let’s not even get started with Virginia.

So what CAN the league do? They HAVE to go to 9 conference games…at least. The Big 12 does it. The Big 10 is doing it. More league games just makes sense. It makes scheduling easier, and more predictable, which is actually what fans want- even if they’ll say they want variety. League games matter. Games against FCS teams don’t. That’s why fans don’t show up, FSU. That’s why the Big 10 has outlawed FCS games for their teams in the near future. UNC is in the same league as FSU to play them all the time…not once every 5-8 years. So let’s say 10 conference games; no FCS games; a permanent out-of-conference rival; plus Notre Dame every three years. With that, a new scheduling model would develop.

What if each team had TWO permanent partners on the other side. UNC’s would be NC State and Wake Forest. That’s sensible. Now what if the remaining 5 teams were grouped into two categories (this is for UNC)- longtime rivals (Clemson, FSU) and new faces (BC, Syracuse, Louisville). What if we had non-permanent partner games with our longtime rivals more frequently than with the new faces? Wouldn’t that make everyone happy and create exciting match-ups for fans and television? Check out some of UNC’s potential future schedules under this model-


Georgia Tech                     Miami

Duke                                     Pittsburgh

Virginia Tech                      Virginia

NC State                              Wake Forest

Clemson                              Louisville

Tennessee                          Notre Dame


Georgia Tech                     Miami

Duke                                     Pittsburgh

Virginia Tech                      Virginia

NC State                              Wake Forest

Florida State                       Boston College

Tennessee                          East Carolina


Georgia Tech                     Miami

Duke                                     Pittsburgh

Virginia Tech                      Virginia

NC State                              Wake Forest

Clemson                              Syracuse

Tennessee                          Maryland

Those are great schedules. You’ll notice that that UNC will play Clemson and Florida State every other year. That’s a win-win situation for fans AND networks. It makes scheduling easy. And it actually feels like a conference again. The new yearly game against Tennessee? Why not? There have been rumors about an ACC-Big 12 scheduling alliance and that really makes sense. But almost half of the ACC teams already have a regular rival in the SEC and our leagues overlap geographically. So maybe we just have to suck it up and play #1.

As a fan, it’s hard to find anything wrong with those schedules. Yes, they would need to be worked out for every team. And it probably wouldn’t be this simple. But the reasons to change the current model are. The league has experience a lot of growth in the past few years. Let’s continue to adapt and change for the better.

What do you think? What do you feel that the ACC’s next move should be?

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5 thoughts on “Conference Expansion is Over? Post Grant-of-Rights Moves for the ACC

  1. Great analysis!

  2. tjcuseacc on said:

    I think you are right on with this being the lead in to clinching an ACC Network with ESPN. I think to help the TV component adding UConn would be great to lock up the Northeast and NYC metro area. They have a presence in NY Metro with Sportsnet New York (SNY) and are seen by a lot of folks in Rutgers territory. Its interesting to see if the Grant of Rights for the ACC helps or hurts UConn’s (or Cincy’s) chances because they probably thought they would be the next pick if the ACC got raided. In the meantime, just want to enjoy the good news today. As a Syracuse fan it would have been hard to see the ACC start to split up before even getting started (losing Maryland doesn’t count since Louisville makes the conference stronger).

  3. This has been an exciting month, to say the least!
    I have to agree on the ACC Network – get it started, even if it isn’t hugely profitable at first. As for scheduling, however, I’d like to divide the teams into 4 groups – 2 groups of 4 and 2 groups of 3 – then do a recombinant division thing (I won’t use the “p” word since people seem to be prejudiced against it)

  4. There is no doubt left in my mind with the GoR that there will still be a strong ACC for us to join in 2014.

  5. Pingback: 4-22-13: An ACC Holiday | ATLANTIC COAST CONFIDENTIAL

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