The conference realignment carousel keeps on turning, with rumors flying every which way about who’s staying, who’s going and what might happen to those who wait around too long in the ACC and other conferences around the country. One of the overarching themes, however, is that the ACC needs to act — in some way (ANY way) to solidify its future, whether that’s with Florida State or without them. They have to start taking steps, before the Big 12 just loots the place, leaving them penniless.
Below are the best suggestions we’ve got toward fixing the ACC, both right now, and for the future. Some may be a bit more rational/realistic than others, but given the speed of change in college football right now, sometimes the most irrational move can also be the smartest one, too.
Step 1: Level with ESPN
Overall, most are of the opinion that the ACC was grossly undervalued in its latest deal with ESPN, especially considered the worldwide leader took home all of the league’s third-tier rights, too. Since the ACC is the only league ESPN owns in full, come back to the negotiating table laying out the terms in black-and-white. “If we don’t fix this, your property loses value by losing member institutions.” There’s also the option of using it as motivation to grab Notre Dame, the one piece ESPN would really kill to own. But we’ll get to that…
Step 2: Cater to Florida State
If Florida State really wants their own “Longhorn Network” as badly as they claim, let them go for it. With a slightly renegotiated deal, let the ‘Noles take their tier-three rights and create a ‘Noles Network, with all-FSU, all-the-time programming of various sorts. Allow all teams to negotiate their own tier-three rights — but it’s likely they won’t need to if they create:
Step 3: An ACC Network
All ACC sports programming, from studio shows to live events to feature documentaries. Teams will earn plenty from the tier-three rights living on the network (likely run by ESPN in some fashion). Best of all, FSU can also grab revenues from this channel as well. Speaking of Florida State, there’s also another step the league will need to take to ensure they’re happy.
Step 4: Fire John Swofford
And replace him with someone with ties outside of the ACC, and especially outside of Tobacco Road. If FSU pressed the issue, you could do this as step one, to bring a better contract negotiator to the table. But whenever you implement the new leader, he should be seen as a voice for all 14 schools, rather than a small faction of the Carolina schools.
Step 5: Bump up the League Exit Fee
With all of these concessions made for Florida State, of course it had to come back around in some form — but as long as they stick around, they don’t have to worry about these repercussions at all. The conference’s current exit fee stands at $20M. If Florida State wants to be catered to, then it just needs to up the ante on their (and all the school’s) agreement. Make it $30M, and adopt similar rules to the Big 12: If you depart, you’re losing your television rights for years on-end. Even the league’s most popular team, the ‘Noles, don’t have the money for that.
Step 6: (Finally) Bring On Notre Dame
Boxed out of adding any ACC teams, the Big 12 will likely go to the Big East if they’re hoping to expand. Should that league lose another member, it’s likely Notre Dame is suddenly active in looking for a conference home for all sports (including football). The Irish will also get some special treatment to make sure they come aboard, though the same penalties will apply if they leave. Notre Dame can still negotiate its own tier-three rights deal like everyone else, but it must split football games between ESPN and that other partner (likely NBC still). While some may not be a big fan of the preferential treatment afforded two schools, it’s worth it to keep everything together. Adding a 16th team, you’re probably looking at Rutgers.
Step 7: Place ACC Championship Game at Campus Sites
Another one that could happen at various stages in the process, but holds additional significance at the end. The ACC shows its faith in its programs by switching the football title game to neutral sites. It’s a big step for the league toward breaking away from its NC-centricity, and overall isn’t a whole lot to give up to keep everyone together.
If Florida State does leave, many of these steps can still be taken to solidify the league and enhance the on-field product while putting a premium value on marketing potential.
Agree, disagree? What other steps would you take in this process?
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