Clemson Football: ACC expansion candidates based on viewership

Oct 22, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; SMU mascot Peruna leads the team onto the field prior to a game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 22, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; SMU mascot Peruna leads the team onto the field prior to a game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports /

The realignment roller coaster didn’t look like it could impact Clemson Football because the Atlantic Coast Conference has a Grant of Rights that looked like it would keep programs from jumping to another conference.

Then came the sudden revelation that Commissioner Jim Phillips and the ACC are considering adding Stanford and California.

At first, it seemed to be a joke, but then Tiger Illustrated confirmed that not only are they considering those teams but they might not stop there.

They have revealed that SMU is being discussed as well.

What the end game could be for the ACC with expansion is still uncertain, and there is always a chance by tomorrow we learn that there is no real initiative to add any more teams based on the available candidates.

If they are looking at adding schools, we know they won’t come from the SEC or Big Ten. It’s also unlikely that any schools from the Big 12 would leave for the ACC because they are in an altogether better position with their television contract situation.

I am also assuming Notre Dame isn’t likely to decide to give up independence, at least not right now.

This means that the ACC would need to consider the remaining teams from the PAC-12 and Group of Five programs.

Who are the best candidates when it simply comes to the viewership of college football? That is what drives the money train in college athletics. Are there expansion candidates that draw more viewers than Stanford or California?

When looking at television viewership for the FCS, this is how the four remaining programs from the PAC-12 fared in 2022.

  • 41st: Washington State – 907K
  • 45th: California – 857K
  • 47th: Stanford – 846K
  • 57th: Oregon State – 625K

None of them broke one million viewers in 2022. For perspective, Clemson finished 10th with 2.59M viewers.

While this doesn’t seem impressive, keep in mind the results for these Power Five programs that finished in this same vicinity of viewers.

  • 39th: South Carolina – 990K
  • 43rd: North Carolina State – 881K
  • 46th: North Carolina – 849K
  • 48th: Syracuse – 841K
  • 49th: Georgia Tech – 837K

With regards to demand for football product, none of the remaining PAC teams are difference makers, but they aren’t worse off than several ACC teams.

In fact, and this one stings for the ACC: Only two teams brought in more college football viewership in the ACC than Washington State. Clemson and Florida State (15th at 2.03M).

That puts some perspective on the motivation for the leadership of the ACC to at least consider adding Stanford or California.

Using this logic, are there any Group of Five programs that had better viewership than Washington State?

Only one: Navy. A service academy that can draw many viewers from around the nation because of veterans who served and their families. Army is the next highest G5 school in 53rd place with 681K. Air Force is 68th with 326K.

Clemson Football and the ACC doesn’t have many peers among the Group of Five in college football viewership

Here are the next five Group of Five options based on television viewership:

  • 64th: Colorado State – 386K
  • 65th: Tulane – 354K
  • 66th: Boise State – 353K
  • 69th: Utah State – 324K
  • 72nd: SMU – 312K

While you can make an argument that the remaining PAC members at least bring in eyeballs comparable to the top half of the ACC, that figure drops sharply after getting to the G5 and past the service academies.

It’s understandable why a school like SMU might have more marketability in the eyes of television networks since they are in Dallas, Texas, which is a huge market that might not have ACC Network on a lot of cable providers. Options like that are scant as you continue to go down the list.

There are various ways a network can view value for a program and a conference. Fans can only hope conference leadership is asking the right questions of the right people when making decisions like conference expansion.

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