ACC-ESPN Television Deal Won't End Realignment Rumors

By Chris Hengst

Completing a 15-year, $3.6 billion television deal with ESPN that pays each member school in the ACC $17 million annually should be cause for celebration, but even at those figures, it won’t quell the sentiment that the conference heavyweights have wandering eyes.

By signing away their Tier 1, 2 and 3 rights, ACC institutions have maxed out their revenue streams. Depending on a possible cut from the conference championship, the financials may rise a tad (or not at all as it appears the ACC may take a piece from each school) but definitely not to the level of their national competitors.

The SEC likely tries to re-negotiate with ESPN and CBS for the additions of Texas A&M and Missouri and it’s a guarantee that each school in that conference banks a raise and eventually garners somewhere in the neighborhood of $22-25 million per year. The Big Ten campuses already earn around $21 million, Pac 12 schools sit at $20 million and once the Big 12 deal is finished, those institutions (10 of them) will cash television checks worth $20 million annually. The number of Big 12 members is important because a 14-team (in 2013 with the entries of Pittsburgh and Syracuse) ACC is worth on average, $3 million less per year than a 10-team Big 12. And the Big 12 TV deal doesn’t include Tier 3 revenues so places like Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma are hawking their content and printing more money.

Now granted, there’s been little to no mainstream media conversation on Florida State, Clemson or Virginia Tech bolting the ACC other than derisive acknowledgement. But in 2012, college football message boards tend to exhibit some truth on realignment topics simply because you’re going to have a fan that has a buddy who knows a guy who once worked with a dude in an athletic department. It’s science.

In all seriousness though, the Seminoles, Tigers and Hokies must see this deal and at least wonder if it’s as absurdly beneficial as being touted. Florida is going to earn more and by proxy, spend more, millions more, annually on football than their Tallahassee rivals. Larger pieces of television revenue mean better facilities, higher coaching salaries and in the obvious sense, more opportunities to find and buy a competitive advantage. (Insert Cam Newton joke here).

Until the conference commissioners decide on a playoff system, the realignment wheels won’t get any grease. Should the system allow for what appears a reachable path to BCS bowls, perhaps no one in the ACC looks around. The option exists for the conference to funnel more of that BCS money to Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech in order to keep them happy. But I can’t imagine at $17 or 18 million per, those schools will keep quiet for long.

It might be the Big 12 for the Seminoles and Tigers, the SEC for the Hokies or just using those destinations as threats to milk a bit more out of their ACC counterparts. So while the financial totals here are astronomical, they aren’t necessarily a savior for the ACC.

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