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Banter: ACC Realignment and its Consequences for Boston College

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 29 Womens Pittsburgh at Boston College Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Earlier this week, news broke out at the ACC Spring meetings that a group of “Magnificent 7” schools have met with their legal teams to take a serious look at what it would mean to break the conference’s grant-of-rights to leave the ACC

This seems like an omen of something very consequential for Boston College, so we asked our writers to talk about what this could mean moving forward.

Curran: The question of timeline is an interesting one, because the ACC and its members are tied to its ESPN exclusive rights deal until 2036. There is a grant-of-rights agreement that each school signed as members of the conference, and it is this grant-of-rights these 7 schools are looking into to determine how it could be escaped.

From everything I have read, the grant-of-rights is a pretty rock-solid legal document, making it very difficult for any school looking to jump ship for greener pastures without paying an exorbitant exit fee. Texas and Oklahoma each paid the Big 12 $100 million to leave for the SEC a singular year earlier. ACC schools are held by this grant of rights for another 13 years, so the timeline here is pretty much entirely up in the air.

Bailin: So I think the issue here is simple. The money must be so good it’s worth backing out of this deal. These are rational actors, right, so if they think they can get more money in spite of the grant-of-rights of course they’ll explore it.

Curtis: If you look at some of the projections for the SEC once OU and UT join, each conference member could be making $50M more per year than they would in the ACC. The B1G I’m sure wouldn’t be far behind. Sounds like a good deal to me to pay the exit fee now.

The major issue I see is that I don’t think that all of these schools would necessarily stand to receive an invite from the big two conferences. NC State? Virginia Tech? Those guys seem like unnecessary additions.

Curran: I agree. Realistically, I think Clemson, FSU, and maybe UNC are the only programs from the 7 that would stand to boost the profile and earnings of the SEC or B1G. However, I don’t understand why programs such as VTech or NC State would attempt to leave without knowing they can make more money elsewhere.

Bailin: I mean it’s an arms race for these conferences. I tend to agree that some schools are not like the other—NC State is silly—but if you’re a school and you’re seeing these conferences trying to consolidate power, it’s worth at least checking to see if it’s a viable option. Hell, if it were a good idea for BC to do this (it’s not) it should be doing it too!

By the way I’d be absolutely shocked if BC joins a first-tier conference. Don’t give me that stuff about the Boston TV market either, BC hasn’t delivered on that at all in its time in the ACC.

Curtis: Totally agreed. The only way that happens is if the B1G expands to something like 24 schools in a true mega conference. There are plenty of people in line before it makes sense to add BC.

Bailin: I mean think of the big movers, they’re in places that are not traditional markets. The only one that’s arguable is Georgia and Atlanta, and Georgia isn’t a power because of the Atlanta market. You’re telling me Alabama is a lucrative program to have in a conference because the Birmingham TV market is so valuable?

Curtis: I think the best case scenario for us is to remain in the ACC with whoever is left over (Syracuse, Pitt, Wake Forest, maybe Louisville) and try to establish a kind of second-tier conference that is below the SEC, B1G, and Big 12. More in-line with like the PAC-12, trying to stay more relevant than the G5.

That seems like a rough scenario now that I type it out.

Curran: Does anyone see any chance of a Pac-12/ACC merger that has been floated about as a (very rough) idea?

Curtis: The PAC-12 seems to be going in a different direction with rumored plans to add San Diego State and SMU to replace the schools it lost. The only way I see a PAC/ACC merge happening is if some sort of huge break-up happens to them as well, like Oregon & Washington leaving for the B1G and Utah/Arizona/Arizona State/Colorado leaving for the Big 12. Even then, it seems kind of farfetched.

Arthur: The good-ish news is that the new college football playoff format makes being a member of the ACC at least a little bit desirable, as I would think they’d always be in contention for the six highest ranked conference winners, but obviously if the floor falls out that can create problems.

Curtis: It looks like the ACC might be going in the direction of a revenue sharing plan that rewards on-field success. Not sure that really would make a dent in the grand scheme of trying to keep the conference together. There are also conflicting reports about who is seriously looking to leave the conference.

Bailin: I mean that would require these programs with higher aspirations to actually perform! A lot of those programs haven’t been good in years.

Niraj: Yeah, it seems like they came up with a good compromise to calm the crowd, to give a greater share of postseason revenue to those teams. But the gap will still exist in money coming in for the top performing ACC schools and the Big 10/SEC schools, so it’s only a matter of time until they have to come back to the table.

I also agree that there weren’t actually that many teams looking to leave. The idea of a “Magnificent 7” is comical and it was well pointed out that the other conferences would have to actually be looking to add these schools.

On a side note, I die imagining James Blake James taking part in this meeting

Bailin: Blake James is going to be at the heart of the most consequential battles in college athletics history. Go BC I guess?