As expected, this is all moving very quickly, and there is plenty of ongoing (opinionated) discussion on the SFN Forums about the inevitable next round of college football expansion and realignment, and more precisely, how it will affect State. So go on over there and join the fun, and it’s likely you’ll even win a $100 Walmart gift card, or maybe one of the few remaining ipads!
Also check out the previous few SFN Blog discussions here and here. If you’re curious about when all this chaos started (especially the younger among you), you can read about the evolution of expansion here.
Today, Joe Schad at ESPN is reporting that Texas A&M will become the 13th member of the SEC as early as Monday, and that Missouri, Florida State and Clemson are also “likely to join,” probably later this month (full column with videos).
Everyone expects the SEC to become a 16-team league, and for the Big Ten to eventually follow, and perhaps even the new Pac-12.
Our question is, how will this affect the ACC, and more particularly, NC State? Quite simply: who knows? The ACC is in a really tough position here, because there aren’t many options that strengthen its football positioning in terms of TV revenues, which, as we’ve noted previously, is all that matters. Also keep in mind that with the addition of TCU in 2012 (and its Texas TV markets), the Big East may very likely negotiate a favorable deal for the football portion of its TV contract; combined with the potential raid of the ACC, the Big East may be solvent enough to stave off a future Big Ten raid. In fact, if Villanova joins as a full member (as expected), it will probably look to expand from 10 to 12, and look for two more teams (possibly even from the ACC). This very well could negatively affect the ACC’s efforts to remain a player in the BCS picture, and thus limit its potential TV revenue. The Big East and ACC may both look towards Memphis (FedEx support), Central Florida (commuter school or not, it’s a big TV market), and/or Navy (far-reaching appeal), but any of those teams alone don’t enhance your reputation enough to secure mega-TV deals.
Now, let’s not be overly dramatic: The ACC won’t dissolve, it will continue to exist, although it’s likely it will look vastly different in a few years. For everyone that wishes the ACC would revert back to its basketball-first roots, you may well get your wish, although not as the cozy eight-team league it once was. That structure simply isn’t profitable nowadays. College football is now behind only the NFL in terms of TV revenue, and the new SEC deal with ESPN alone will probably be in the range of $4-5 billion over 10 years. The Pac-12, Big Ten, and SEC already each have a TV deal that pays each member $20-23 million annually, and that’s expected to increase (the SEC may pay out upwards of $30 million). Meanwhile, the ACC deal currently pays each of its members $14 million annually, and it will be hard to maintain that with Florida State and Clemson gone (and possibly Maryland and maybe others).
What you may see the ACC do is take the pragmatic approach: concede its attempt at football prowess and look at options that maximize its basketball revenue (remember, for the ACC, the basketball portion of its deal is bigger than its football) — in which case, it would have to look towards adding more northeastern teams (and their TV markets). However, that could be disastrous for any of us that hoped to someday go to the Orange Bowl, or, heck, even the Peach Bowl.
Now, back to Texas A&M: the Aggies are in a unique position to accomplish this kind of move: they may not be the preeminent Texas school, but they still take the SEC two top-10 TV markets and one of the top three recruiting states. In a strange way, they probably have quite a bit of leverage right now, and it’s at least possible this could all be an attempt to somehow become a partner in the Texas Longhorns Network and stay at home.
Now, here’s an idea for the ACC to consider: With both Texas A&M and Missouri looking to the SEC, as well as the inevitable departure of Texas from the Big XII, who this may be really be worrying is Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, who will certainly become targets of the Pac-12 (as well as Texas Tech). So, my opinion is that John Swofford should be on the phone immediately with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (both have strong recruiting inroads and alumni bases in Texas), and then Texas Tech. Everyone else wants those Texas TV markets, why shouldn’t the ACC go after them, too?
SportingNews.com reports “a high-placed SEC source told Sporting News the conference will stick to 14 teams and not advance to 16.” I would have to imagine that with Texas A&M as the 13th, then Florida State or Missouri would be the 14th, and Clemson is out of the equation.
Regarding Clemson, it’s tough to find any sourcing for their inclusion beyond speculation by a source close to Doug Gottlieb. The consensus among the SFN faithful seems to be that Clemson adds far less than its Textile Bowl rival. But there may be other factors at play here. My personal viewpoint is that by virtue of adding Clemson, the SEC enhances its brand, and in turn its negotiating position, by cutting into the ACC market share. In the case of Clemson, it would seem the SEC may see more value in dominating the South Carolina market — keep in mind that you can consider the Charlotte market among this, and with Clemson in the SEC that market would then be split — than adding the North Carolina market.
This is all very unnerving, sure. But stay tuned as this plays out.