Over the last week, the news cycle has been on fire thanks to USC and UCLA announcing that they were packing their bags and heading to the Big Ten. For UNC specifically it’s been even worse, because the program has been deemed the second-most valuable program in the country right behind Notre Dame. This means rumors have flown around non-stop, and the very loud opinion out there is that UNC wants more money, would take more money, and is absolutely destined to take more money. Did I say money already?
Whether or not UNC is seriously considering leaving the ACC is anybody’s guess (emphasis on guess), but what we do know is that this is far from the first time conversations about Carolina leaving the ACC have existed, and no, I’m not talking about them going to the Big Ten.
99.9 The Fan’s Joe Ovies and Joe Giglio had former UNC chancellor Holden Thorp on their radio show Wednesday. They discussed the situation with the ACC, and dove quite a bit into what UNC may or may not be thinking. Thorp had a lot of interesting comments, but this perhaps was the most interesting of them all.
“We are pretty sure we could have gone to the SEC if we wanted to,” Thorp said. “... I feel OK saying Carolina could have gone to the SEC if we wanted to, yes.”
To provide some context: Thorp said that there were some conversations that transpired back in the early 2010s when Texas and Oklahoma contemplated moving to the Pac-12. Thorp knew some presidents in both the Big Ten and the SEC, and the conversations with said presidents suggested that UNC would almost certainly be accepted by the SEC if they made the leap. What ultimately happened is that Texas and Oklahoma backed down, and well, waited roughly 10 years before leaving the Big 12 anyway. Not as big of a shock that they did that in hindsight, is it?
I digress, around the time that Texas and Oklahoma was looking for a way out, Thorp said the ACC began discussions of a Grant of Rights agreement that would lock their current teams into the conference. Infamously, Maryland refused to sign the agreement, and they would run off to the Big Ten while the ACC brought in Notre Dame, Syracuse, Pitt, and Louisville. At the time, the ACC did what seemed to be the best possible outcome: they strengthened their conference, made it to where anybody that tried to leave early would forfeit millions of dollars, and eventually would make a (bad) deal with ESPN for the ACC Network. Time for Swofford to take a bow, right?
Well that brings us to what’s going on right now: USC and UCLA has set off a bomb in college athletics, and now everyone thinks that the ACC is done for just a year after Swofford’s exit. UNC Twitter/college media is dying on the hill that UNC can and will figure out a way out of the ACC, though Thorp shared why he thought any realignment is way more difficult than it sounds.
“For UNC to go without NC State would be a political mess because there is so much rivalry among those two schools in the Board of Governors and there’s so much politics that goes on that for one of them to get the big payday from one of the big conferences and not the other would be politically very challenging,” Thorp said. “I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but that’s certainly something you prefer not to deal with if you’re the chancellor.”
“The other thing is you don’t want to break up Carolina and Duke. If Carolina goes to one of these conferences and Duke doesn’t and you’re talking about a Duke-Carolina (basketball) game over New Year’s or something like that, you know that it wouldn’t be the greatest rivalry in sports,” Thorp said. “That would be the end of it. In my view, these are both things you’d rather not have to deal with.”
Whether things are as easy or as difficult as Thorp is claiming is anybody’s guess. Does the ACC renegotiate with ESPN? Do the ACC and the Pac-12 go through with their weird merger idea? Or do we see teams actually find a way out of the Grant of Rights and run for other conferences? Nobody knows, and truly that is the moral of today’s story: nobody knows, but the conversations that are transpiring right now are conversations that are so under wraps, you are not going to be leaked details by someone on Twitter. Thorp was plugged in as much as anybody could be, and so his comments above are hard to ignore, but there have been a lot of people claiming they have “sources” that didn’t seem to be privy to this information that Thorp shared (and if they said they were, they’re lying). All I’m saying is stay frosty out there when navigating this topic, and umm…maybe don’t bite on what you’re hearing from sites you’ve never heard of before.
Anyways, what do you think about Thorp’s comments on Ovies’ and Giglio’s radio show? Let us know in the comments below, and you can hear the entire interview by clicking this link.