ACC members sign grant of media rights: What does it mean?

ACC members sign grant of media rights: What does it mean?

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat will the off-season be like without talk of conference realignment?

ACC commissioner John Swofford

ACC commissioner John Swofford

With the news that ACC presidents voted to approve a grant of media rights for the league, it looks like we may find out.

The league announced Monday that all 15 schools (the 14 football schools and Notre Dame) signed the grant. That means league members pledge the school’s media rights to the conference for a predetermined length of time — in this case, through 2026-27. (The same time the league’s deal with ESPN expires.)

If a school chose to leave the conference before that time, it would forfeit media rights of all home games through the remainder of the grant term. Naturally, the move puts the league, who last year lost Maryland to the Big Ten, on much more stable ground.

“This announcement further highlights the continued solidarity and commitment by our member institutions,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. “The Council of Presidents has shown tremendous leadership in insuring the ACC is extremely well positioned with unlimited potential.”

Last year, the ACC increased its exit fee from $20 million to three times its annual operating budget, or about $52 million. The grant of rights is seen as much more significant deterrent to leaving than the exit fee, however.

The league’s deal ESPN with was originally announced as being worth $17 million per school per year, but is expected to increase to at least $20 million per school per year with the addition of Notre Dame. If that number is accurate, that means a school leaving the ACC now that the grant of rights is in place would be giving up approximately $280 million. Additionally, it makes an ACC Network a virtual certainty, which could increase each school’s annual windfall (and, in turn, the cost to exit).

The ACC joins the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 as the latest member of the “power five” conferences with a grant of rights. The SEC does not have a grant of rights, but it doesn’t need one — it’s almost unimaginable to think of a member voluntarily leaving the conference.

Florida State, Clemson and Virginia have all been mentioned as possibilities to leave the ACC. With them effectively off the board, it means if the Big Ten decides to expand to 16 schools, it would have to target schools from leagues that don’t have a grant of rights — the American Athletic Conference (formerly Big East), Mid-American, Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt or FBS Independent BYU.

The ACC’s grant of rights may not necessarily put an end to conference realignment, but it, in effect, may do just that by significantly shrinking pool of attractive potential additions.

Photo credit: AP File

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