Clemson Football will be kicking off the 2023 season in about one month, but the hot topic of the moment is conference realignment.
Though Colorado’s decision to leave the PAC-12 for the Big 12 seems small compared to the other shifts we have seen the past two summers, it carries weight due to the now distinct possibility that the PAC-12 might eventually disband.
The rumors of Big Ten expansion did evolve into a story by Dan Wetzel from Yahoo that some leaders in the conference are evaluating Oregon and Washington as possible future members, while also considering Stanford and California as next most likely options.
According to Brett McMurphy, ACC schools would be a consideration “if any teams leave” the league.
There is some speculation that the Big Ten might be interested in two or four schools from the PAC-12 at this time because they might get a sweetheart deal.
When Maryland, Rutgers and Nebraska joined the Big Ten, they did not get full shares of television revenue to start. All three agreed to less money during their first six seasons when they joined the conference.
USC and UCLA did not agree to such a deal. They will receive full shares immediately. They didn’t have to find a new home. Partial shares wouldn’t have been enough to get them to leave the PAC-12 at that time. For those two schools, it was a seller’s market. The Big Ten had to make it worth their time.
Considering the PAC-12 is struggling to attract a good television contract, the Big Ten could be banking on a partial share of their payout to be considerably better than a full share of any deal the PAC-12 can muster today.
If all four of those schools agreed to half-shares for the next six years, the Big Ten is essentially getting BOGO on Power Five universities that essentially lock up the West Coast.
It seems cut-throat, but unless the SEC decides they want to get in on the action, it’s now a buyer’s market. Schools from the PAC-12 need the Big Two more than the Big Two need more schools from the PAC-12.
The same could be true for schools from the ACC, which is further complicated by the long-term Grant of Rights. Unless a school found a loophole, which doesn’t appear likely, they would have to buy out a decade’s worth of a television contract that is paying each school somewhere between $35-40 million a year.
Given the language McMurphy used in his tweet, it appears safe to conclude that if any ACC schools want out of the Grant of Rights to even be considered by the Big Ten, they will have to do it on their own. The same probably applies to the SEC. Despite the wishful thinking of some fans, no conference or television network will be riding in on a white stallion to help them escape the GOR.
Even if an ACC school were able to negotiate a settlement to be paid to the ACC in installments, as has been rumored, the next hurdle is getting a full share from either the SEC or Big Ten. That means the school would need a bidding war to start.
An ACC school would need to at least breakeven. They need the difference between the share from their new conference minus the annual payment to the ACC to be larger than the $35-40 million dollars they make now.
Unless both the SEC and Big Ten are drooling over a school, that might be hard to come by for ACC schools, even Clemson and Florida State.