The next domino of conference realignment recently fell as several Pac-12 programs departed from greener pastures in the Big 12 and Big Ten. Oregon and Washington joined fellow conference members USC and UCLA in the Big Ten, while Colorado joins Arizona, Arizona State and Utah as the soon-to-be programs in the Big 12.
Up to this point, the ACC has yet to actually pull the trigger on finalizing a move to add more teams. ACC programs, including the Syracuse Orange, began to sound the alarm once Colorado jumped ship to the Big 12, setting the stage for the summer of conference realignment we just experienced. But a little over a week ago, the conference fell one vote short to add Stanford and Cal in the mix (the no voters were reported to be Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina and NC State, the first of which is absolutely unsurprising).
Until now. The ACC Friday morning voted to invite Cal, Stanford, and SMU into the conference in 2024, per Pete Thamel. The NCAA conference realignment boat rocks again.
As part of the deal, SMU will not receive media rights revenue for its first seven years in the conference while Cal as well as Stanford will receive reduced shares, per Brett McMurphy. The trio of Florida State, Clemson, and North Carolina voted again against conference expansion, while it appears that NC State was the lone vote to flip sides and side in favor of expansion based on prior reporting.
Sources: ACC Presidents and Chancellors have voted this morning to extend invitations to Stanford, California and SMU to push the league to 18 teams.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) September 1, 2023
What does this all mean for Syracuse and the future of the ACC? Time to send out a Bat-Signal to the TNIAAM crew and break it all down:
What are your first thoughts should all three of SMU, Cal and Stanford accept their invites to the ACC?
Kevin: My initial thoughts was that the move didn’t make a lot of sense overall. However, reports that the additions would come in at a discounted revenue rate combined with the increase of TV money from ESPN seems to make it worthwhile. Syracuse won’t be going back and forth to the West Coast that often, so if those schools want to join, it isn’t going to hurt to do so.
Dom: One would hope that adding the trio of programs isn’t just shuffling the chairs of the Titanic. What would stand out to me is not who voted to bring in SMU, Cal and Stanford, but who didn’t. Does bringing in these teams change the clock at all for Clemson and Florida State, or anyone else to depart down the road?
Mike: To me, it depends on how these programs might be added. Football only? Great! We gain a foothold in the west-coast and Texas markets, make the Grant of Rights harder to break (cry FSU), and maybe make it more appealing for other on-the-fringe programs to at least come to the table. If it’s across all sports, then I’ll be shaking my head for the ACC falling into the exact same trap that will ruin non-rev teams in the BIG.
Should the ACC finalize this expansion, what is one way you think the decision will impact Syracuse Athletics?
Kevin: The obvious concern is travel for the athletes. Hopefully, the ACC sends schools to California once per sport season and has them play both schools. Flying to Dallas isn’t that big of a deal and if the ACC plans wisely, it won’t be a huge burden.
Dom: Trying to figure out whether this expansion pertains to just football, a few mainstay sports (the rumors ones include football as well as men’s and women’s basketball) or all athletics in general. As Kevin noted, it’s hard to overestimate the impacts of the long-distance travel as well as the wear-and-tear on student-athletes.
Mike: With the reports that all three of these schools are willing to accept significantly reduced revenue shares to start their ACC tenures, SU Athletics will have a window to continue playing catch-up with facilities upgrades. The Lally complex is finally coming along (the football wing has been gutted and is being rebuilt from the ground up) and there could be opportunities to invest in sports that deserve expansions (Soccer) or significant overhauls (WICE, Volleyball, Softball and XCTF).
Does this expansion effort mean there will be a future for the ACC?
Kevin: The ACC has a future, but it depends on the BIG and SEC more than anything. The Big 12 isn’t going to poach ACC schools so it all comes down to the Power Two growing and when they do so.
Dom: Florida State would be the next domino to fall if they simply buy their way out of the ACC’s Grant of Rights deal and face the mountains’ worth of legal barriers, but that could be a possibility. For now, expanding at least keeps the conference alive for the next few years.
Mike: I really don’t think this is going to move the needle that much either way. Florida State is stuck with us for another decade or so, whether they like it or not, because the TV contracts and G.O.R. are THAT good. If this whole deal somehow gets Notre Dame football involved, then it’d be the ACC’s saving grace - but that’s a huge “if” that surely has many more layers to address.
How would you describe Syracuse’s current standing amid all the recent conference realignment moves?
Kevin: At this point, it’s tenuous because of what the ACC is/isn’t doing. If the future is the top 24-30 football programs linking up, then honestly Syracuse will be left in a league with a lot of strong basketball programs who also play football. People who long for the Big East might enjoy if the Orange are in the same league as Duke, BC, Louisville, Indiana, Kansas and UConn. Is it top-tier football? No, but it seems like a place that Syracuse could find more even competition.
Dom: Mike and I recently discussed potential new basketball rivals for the Orange, and the conversation kept returning to the idea of former Big East hoops. It’s a fun imagination, right? Of course, that’s without factoring in the football side of things, but it’s intriguing at least to imagine that sort of reality. Expect the Orange, like Kevin said, to possibly form an alliance of sorts with the basketball-hungry schools who don’t necessarily have an upper-elite football program.
Mike: It’s simple: football is not, and should not be, the main draw among Syracuse Athletics. The Dome does not and never will seat in the 80k+ range that nearly all BIG/SEC schools consistently bring in... but it does have a unique, highly-intimidating environment for basketball. So capitalize on that! We’re already in a situation where most fans will be pleased with just making it to a Bowl game, and whatever progress that’s recently been made will be wiped out and then some if ‘Cuse is somehow invited into a bigger conference, regardless of an increased cash flow. I’d much rather be a force in basketball and play against a similar level of competition in football than chase the big brands - we’ve already seen how well that works out.
Now it’s your turn: let’s hear your thoughts down below.