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Why Stanford & Cal Joining the ACC Would Be Great for Boston College

Eagles and Cardinal and Bears, oh my!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Cal at Stanford Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you’re just tuning into the college football realignment chaos that’s been going on these past few weeks, it’s been a doozy. In just a short amount of time, we’ve seen a number of changes that have added on to the past couple of years of realignment shifts.

How We Got Here

  • In July 2021, Texas and Oklahoma announced that they would be joining the SEC by 2025, which eventually was moved up to 2024. That announcement kicked off the phase of college athletics realignment that we’re currently experiencing.
  • In September 2021, the Big 12 responded by accepting BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF into the conference to replace the departing Texas and Oklahoma. Those teams will begin Big 12 play this season, in 2023.
  • In June 2022, USC and UCLA made a similar announcement. They signed a deal with the Big Ten to join their conference in 2024. Suddenly the PAC-12 had become destabilized, but they did not add any new members like the Big 12 did in response.
  • This summer of 2023, things got really bad. While the PAC-12 struggled to put together a TV rights deal for its 10 remaining members, schools started looking for conference membership elsewhere. Colorado bailed first, accepting an invite to the Big 12 on July 27th. Then on August 4th, Oregon and Washington were recruited to the Big Ten to join USC and UCLA in 2024.
  • As a result of these moves, other schools started following Colorado to the Big 12. Arizona was first, followed by Arizona State and Utah less than 4 hours after Oregon & Washington left on August 4th. All in all, the 108-year-old conference lost 8 of its 12 members, leaving just Stanford, Cal, Washington State, and Oregon State as of the time of this writing.
  • After the implosion of the PAC-12, new reporting has suggested that the ACC is considering adding Stanford and Cal to the conference, as well as SMU. The Atlantic Coast Conference presidents and chancellors held a conference call on Tuesday to discuss such a move, but no firm action has been taken yet.

What’s Next?

With Florida State openly threatening to throw the ACC into its own version of chaos (read more here on BCI), the conference would be wise to react to these recent developments. Continuing the status quo will only lead to schools like FSU, Clemson, UNC or others to make decisions like Texas, Oklahoma, USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington have made. With Stanford and Cal suddenly available as expansion targets, the pathway is there for the ACC to add them, and Boston College would stand to gain a lot.


First and foremost, the Atlantic Coast Conference needs to guarantee itself more stability in the face of this realignment chaos. While the ACC Grant of Rights (GoR) has done an effective job so far of keeping the conference together, the individual buyout gets smaller and smaller every year. That slow march towards 2036, when the GoR finally expires, will probably be cut short by schools like FSU, who desperately want to get out early. So the ACC would be wise to add more members before that happens, preventing a full-on exodus like we just saw in the PAC-12.

TV Money

Adding two schools in California would be a great addition for the ACC’s TV revenue. Their contract with ESPN, which was signed before streaming really started to dominate our culture, reportedly gets a significant financial boost whenever a new state is added to the conference, due to the regionality of TV coverage. California, being the most populous state, especially would have a large effect on the TV contract’s worth. Plus the addition of the Pacific Time Zone could draw more viewers to the conference’s members, including Boston College.

Reduced Initial Revenue Distributions

If the ACC were to add new members, those schools would initially enter the conference at a reduced rate. Conference revenue distributions for new members would likely hang around 60-70% of the full amount for the first few years of membership. So the financial concerns around Stanford and Cal reducing the total overall revenue distributions would be quelled, at least temporarily, making the additions more likely.

Academics, Wealth, and Olympic Sports... Now and Later

After all of those logistical reasons that BC would benefit from this addition, there are the schools themselves. Stanford and Cal have some of the top academic programs in the country, their alumni base are some of the wealthiest people in the country, and their breadth of Olympic sports success is unrivaled. This is exactly the kind of reputation that Boston College would want to associate itself with. BC will never be a top national brand in sports, but they do have an opportunity to set their sights on greater success outside of revenue sports. A partnership with Stanford and Cal would promote these important aspects of the university in a way that few other new ACC members could.

And not only would they benefit from the immediate association, but it would open the door for further partnership if the ACC were eventually to lose its most influential members. If FSU, Clemson, and others find their way somewhere else by 2036, BC would love to continue to be associated with Stanford and Cal (along with Duke, Wake Forest, and others). Once college athletics has truly separated into complete super-conferences, BC would be more than happy to find itself in a tier-2 conference that prioritizes academics and smaller alumni bases. Stanford and Cal are the cream of the crop in that regard.

Of Course, There’s the Issue of Travel

The main drawback to all of this is obviously the travel concerns. Stanford and Cal are located on the opposite side of the United States, 3,126 miles and a 6h30m flight away. (5h45m on the way back, though!)

Stanford and Cal would not be joining the ACC as football-only members, a team that only travels about 5-7 times a year. This would involve travel for a huge amount of players and staff in all sports, costing all ACC schools significantly more money and taking a toll on the mental health of student-athletes. Mental health, specifically, is an issue that has been the crux of criticism around the new Big Ten members on the West Coast, and for good reason. Subjecting college students to that much travel on a regular basis in the middle of the school year, and even during finals, is not conducive to BC’s ideals of “men and women for others.” The large majority of these student-athletes will not go on to play sports professionally. Should their well-being be sacrificed in the name of athletic stability?

So, Will It Happen?

It’s hard to say whether these additions will actually happen, but I would say the odds are under 50%. The finances don’t make a ton of sense. Despite adding TV for the state of California and the Pacific Time Zone, Stanford and Cal are still too small to bring in a lot of money or viewers, which is a big reason they’re up for grabs in the first place. Their academic reputation and strong Olympic sports programs still will probably not be enough to move the needle for the majority of the ACC schools who want a higher-quality addition to the conference.

But while we are still looking at the burning flames coming out of the PAC-12, sentiments may have changed. There may be enough programs, like BC and Wake Forest, who are going to value conference stability over pure financial viability. If these realignment events have scared enough people, the ACC could very well be welcoming its 15th and 16th full members soon.