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Stanford, Cal, & SMU to Join the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2024

Welcome to the party!

Notre Dame v Virginia Tech Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

On Friday morning, it was reported that Stanford, Cal, and SMU have gained enough support from ACC members to be admitted into the conference in all sports. SMU plans to enter the league without receiving any media rights revenue for seven years, while Stanford and Cal will initially receive media rights revenue at a reduced amount.

This news comes after weeks of deliberation following the implosion of the PAC-12. Oregon and Washington went to the Big 10, while Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah left for the Big 12, leaving just Stanford, Cal, Oregon State, and Washington State remaining in the historic conference. Desperately searching for a new home, Stanford and Cal (and SMU) were reportedly rejected in initial discussions within the ACC, with at least four members (FSU, Clemson, UNC, NC State) opposing their addition to the conference. With several of North Carolina’s trustees releasing a statement on Thursday night revealing many at the university remained strongly opposed to expansion, the expansion vote came down to NC State (given Clemson and FSU’s well-documented unhappiness). Commissioner Jim Phillips did enough to swing NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson

All three schools bring a very respectable resumé to the table. Stanford was a college football powerhouse in the 2010s, riding high with the likes of Christian McCaffrey and Jim Harbaugh bringing them 10+ wins six times from 2010-2016. Though football has fallen by the wayside since then, their Olympic sports programs are absolutely world-class. Stanford has won 134 NCAA championships in its history, including at least one every year since 1977, setting the highest bar in all of college athletics. On top of all of that, they are the “Harvard of the West Coast”, setting an extremely high bar in academics as well.

Cal’s football history is a bit more ancient than Stanford’s. They won two national championships back in the 1920s and were a powerhouse football program for a number of years in the 20th century, but they have only had three winning seasons in the past decade. Despite this, Cal has produced quality NFL talent like Aaron Rodgers & Marshawn Lynch and even NBA talent like Jaylen Brown. Their Olympic sports programs are well-regarded too, having finished highly in Directors’ Cup standings in recent years and winning 16 national titles overall. And their academics are among the best in the nation, often finishing in the top-20 in national rankings.

SMU has a bit different of a profile, but they bring positives to the table nonetheless. Prior to receiving the NCAA’s “death penalty” in 1989, SMU used its wealthy donor base and boosters to compete with the best of the best in college football, despite being a small private school. They were a dominant program in the 1980s, finishing with a #2 ranking and a Cotton Bowl win in 1984 and two Southwest Conference titles in the decade before the NCAA laid down the hammer on them. Paying players back in the 80s was frowned upon and the Mustangs received a penalty so harsh that it set back their program by decades. Now, in the era of NIL, the methods SMU was using to pay its players has become a lot easier to utilize without punishment, meaning they could quickly rise to be contenders once again. SMU also brings in the valuable Dallas media market and games in Texas, which will be a valuable recruiting tool for other ACC schools. And as far as academics are concerned, SMU falls into the ACC’s middle-low tier. Their latest US News ranking was #72, falling right around Clemson (#77) and NC State (#72, tied). Boston College was #36, for reference, 5th place in the current ACC. 6th place if you count Notre Dame.

Despite being located on the west coast, the addition of Stanford, Cal and SMU could mean great things. You can read here on BCI why these additions are great news for Boston College fans.