CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WGHP) — The Atlantic Coast Conference is expanding westward with the additions of Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley and Southern Methodist University.

Those three additions to the ACC are just the latest examples of the regionality that once defined college athletics being tossed aside as a consequence of massive conference realignment.


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First, from the perspective of the West Coast schools, joining the ACC was a fairly easy decision.

Following the implosion of the Pac-12 Conference, which saw eight of its 12 member schools bolt to other conferences over the course of one calendar year, the four remaining schools found themselves adrift at sea.

Below is a timeline of the Pac-12’s collapse:

The Pac-12’s current media rights deal expires at the end of the current college football season. With so few member schools remaining, a deal with a major network was incredibly unlikely leaving Stanford and Cal with little choice other than to accept any lifeline they were offered to remain in a Power 5 conference.

In the case of SMU, they were in a Group of 5 conference, in the American Athletic Conference and now join the Power 5 ranks, a clear boost in prestige and revenue.

The AAC media rights deal with ESPN paid its member schools worth around $7 million a year. The ACC’s current deal pays each school around $30 million a year, according to The Athletic. That number will rise modestly each year.

Expanding also makes sense for the ACC which is locked into a media rights deal with ESPN through the 2035-36 season which is worth around $3.6 billion which began in 2015.

Unfortunately, being already locked into such a long-term deal left the ACC on the outside of the massive revenue increases seen in the Big Ten and SEC whose new deals will see member schools making two-to-three times as much annually.

Adding more schools will help the ACC be better able to compete with the Big Ten and SEC and mitigate the income disparity by adding an additional $50 million that will be distributed to ACC members, according to The Athletic.

However, not every ACC school was in support of the decision.

On Aug. 31. the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees released the following statement in opposition to the expansion:

“The strong majority of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees opposes the proposed expansion of the Atlantic Coast Conference to include Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Southern Methodist University. Although we respect the academic excellence and the athletic programs of those institutions, the travel distances for routine in-conference competitive play are too great for this arrangement to make sense for our student athletes, coaches, alumni and fans. Furthermore, the economics of this newly imagined transcontinental conference do not sufficiently address the income disparity ACC members face. Without ironclad assurances that the proposed expansion serves the interest of UNC-Chapel Hill, we believe it should be voted down.”

UNC-CH Board of Trustees statement

UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz released the following statement following the vote:

“I respect the outcome of today’s vote and welcome our new members to the ACC. My vote against expansion was informed from feedback I have gathered over the last several weeks from our athletic leadership, coaches, faculty athletic advisors, student-athletes, and a variety of other stakeholders who care deeply about our University and the success of our outstanding athletic program. I look forward to working with all our colleagues in the ACC to ensure excellence in academics and athletics- something our conference has long been known for.”

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UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz

The three schools’ arrival does not come without some concessions given the precarious position they each found themselves in.

SMU will not accept any ACC media rights revenue for the first nine years of its membership, according to the Athletic. Stanford and Cal will take shares that will start at around 30% and increase gradually over 12 years until they become full members.

“We’ve gone from regional conferences to national, coast-to-coast conferences,” ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips said.”College sports is going through its next iteration of change, and it’s really drastic. You either get busy or get left behind.”