Atlantic Coast Conference expands: Adds Stanford, Cal, and SMU

Current SMU Football head coach and former Miami offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.

Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, and Southern Methodist University are on the cusp of joining the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), ushering in a notable expansion that will elevate the total membership of the conference to 18 esteemed institutions. This development follows a resounding affirmative vote by ACC presidents, subsequently receiving formal ratification from the conference’s board of directors.

Critical dates for the inclusion of these institutions into the ACC are as follows:

SMU: Southern Methodist University (SMU) is poised to enter the ACC on July 1, 2024, formally.

Stanford and Cal: Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley (Cal), will follow suit on August 2, 2024.

This expansion carries far-reaching implications for the collegiate sports landscape and the ongoing wave of conference realignment. It promises to exert a significant influence across multiple dimensions of the ACC, encompassing alterations in scheduling, the cultivation of fresh rivalries, and an overall enhancement of the conference’s competitive fabric. These institutions command robust athletic programs, particularly in football and basketball, amplifying the conference’s competitive prowess.

Notably, the ACC’s decision to expand aligns seamlessly with the prevailing realignment trend sweeping through collegiate sports. Conferences nationwide are strategically positioning themselves to bolster their standing, and optimize revenue streams. This strategic move underscores the ACC’s unwavering commitment to preserving a preeminent and fiercely competitive role within the NCAA.

Stanford and Cal, both hailing from the Pac-12 conference, enter the ACC under an innovative agreement on media rights revenue. As elucidated by Yahoo Sports, these venerable institutions will initially receive a reduced share of media rights revenue, approximating 30% of the total allotment. Reciprocally, they pledge to allocate a portion of their media revenue back to the ACC, with this contributive commitment gradually diminishing over their inaugural decade in the conference.

In stark contrast, SMU, transitioning from the American Athletic Conference (AAC) to the ACC, willingly relinquishes ACC media rights revenue for the initial nine years of its ACC tenure. This signifies that SMU will abstain from participating in the ACC’s media rights revenue distribution during this interval. Nonetheless, the university remains entitled to revenue generated through alternative channels, including the College Football Playoff, NCAA Tournament, and postseason bowl games, which ACC member institutions apportion.

The ACC is poised to reap substantial financial windfalls from this expansion, with estimates pointing to an approximate $72 million surge in media rights revenue, as reported by multiple sources. Out of this burgeoning surplus, an estimated $50 million to $60 million shall be earmarked for equitable distribution within the ACC. The specific mechanism for this distribution, whether through a revised financial model or an incentivized program, remains carefully deliberated.

Moreover, all ACC member institutions, encompassing the new entrants, may become eligible for additional revenue through incentivized frameworks tethered to their performance in flagship sports, with an acute focus on football and men’s basketball. The intricate details of this incentive-based allocation model are currently the focus of meticulous examination, with the prospect of formal implementation slated for the inception of the 2024 athletic season.

Notably, the initial enthusiasm for expansion faced pockets of resistance among ACC member institutions. Four entities—Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina, and NC State—initially harbored reservations concerning the expansion initiative. ACC bylaws dictated that no fewer than 12 out of the 15 voting members, including Notre Dame, must cast affirmative votes for expansion to secure ratification. Ultimately, NC State changed its mind, altering its initial stance and casting a pivotal vote to favor the augmentation, securing the support needed for the ACC’s ambitious expansion endeavor.

In summary, the impending inclusion of Stanford, Cal, and SMU into the ACC signals a watershed moment in the ever-evolving world of collegiate sports. Conferences, epitomized by the ACC, are actively recalibrating to fortify their positions, harness emerging revenue streams, and navigate the shifting tides of collegiate athletics. This expansion promises a transformed future for the ACC, spanning academic and athletic domains, signifying a dynamic metamorphosis within the collegiate sports arena.