You know we’ve hit the time of year when people are searching for anything to talk about when multiple articles come out of a meeting in Amelia Island, Florida. It’s ACC spring meeting time!
Leading into the three day annual meetings of the conference, a lot of noise had been made about schools starting to look for some way to get more money since the SEC and the Big Ten are about to roll in some big pay days. The first bits of shouting started back in February when Florida State Athletic Director Michael Alford outright said the school should look for a new conference in a meeting with the Board of Trustees. He reiterated this right before the meetings started when he said it would be so bad that UCF might actually have a better media deal than the Seminoles.
Then when all of the ADs actually got together, word quickly leaked out about seven schools in the conference that were banding together to see how they could actually get out of the Grant of Rights that locks the teams to the ACC until 2036. UNC was one of the schools, along with NC State, FSU, Clemson, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Miami. Thus the stage was set for a spring meeting full of conflict.
Or so we thought, though It turns out that it was sound and fury signifying nothing.
On Wednesday, Jim Phillips had a press conference where the athletic directors said “we’re all in this together.” So, surely, some sort of new financial model came out of this to appease everyone right?
Sort of. They may be voting on one next week, but after all of the noise of the past few days these meetings ultimately were uneventful. There’s a pretty easy reason for this, mind you, and it’s that if anyone could have broken the ACC Grant of Rights by this point, they would have. Last year was a prime moment for the conference to implode with the moves the Big Ten made, and instead, things stayed the same. After two years of conference upheaval, it sure looks as if the Grant of Rights that former commissioner John Swofford got all of the schools to sign is so air tight that the conference isn’t going to have to worry about teams bolting for a few years.
In terms of stability for the product for fans, this is a good thing. While fans in Texas, Oklahoma, and California are about to have to readjust their rooting interests, it doesn’t appear that any traditional rivals that North Carolina has gotten used to will change any time soon. The problem is the same thing that is keeping the conference in place is also handcuffing it from getting any more money. In hindsight, the long term deal the ACC signed for its stability has put some of its schools in a pretty steep financial disadvantage.
That said, with all of the noise happening, it does appear as if there will be an acceptance of the idea that if a school succeeds in a high revenue sport, they’ll reap more of the financial benefit. Right now, basically every dime that is earned by a team through NCAA win shares or bowl trips is put into one big pool and then evenly distributed amongst the schools. That creates a pretty unbalanced situation where a couple of schools help pay for the athletic departments of others. How unbalanced? Well...
ACC Top 7 — Brand Value Generated by TV/Social Media - Last 2 Years (FB/MBB combined)— David Bradley (@realDHB) May 16, 2023
NC State: $145.4M
(ACC totals: $1.4B, $1.2B)
These numbers are telling. For all that people dismiss what basketball means to the bottom line, two of the top three teams have the NCAA win shares to thank for bringing in money to the conference. Carolina and Duke have the Final Four runs that make up their numbers, but just as importantly, Carolina has two bowl bids that also contributed to the pie. Clemson has theirs primarily from football.
So one can understand, looking at this list, why teams like Clemson and UNC would be seeking some sort of unbalanced model where you are rewarded for how you do. It won’t make up the sizable difference that the SEC and Big Ten will be bringing in, but a system that rewards a school for a good year will at least make them less likely to weigh what it would cost to leave the ACC early. With a couple of new media contracts for all of colleges sports coming, the new 12 team CFP and a NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament media deal that’ll likely also have a win share component, there’ll also be more acceptance of an idea that if you have an exceptionally good year, you get more of the financial rewards.
All of that said, after three years of this it’s time for UNC fans to settle down and get comfortable with being in the ACC for a while. They made enough noise to have a chance at more money, now they have to hope that their recent success extends for a few more years to where they can reap the rewards.