Dienhart: ACC agreement could halt realignment

Dienhart: ACC agreement could halt realignment

News that the ACC announced a grant of rights agreement may put the kibosh on conference realignment, including any future plans the Big Ten may have had. The grant of rights agreement pledges a school’s media rights to a conference for a set number of years. If a school leaves a conference under those terms, it would forfeit those rights to the former conference.

Every ACC school approved the measure, which is considered to be even more of a deterrent than an exit fee.

“This announcement further highlights the continued solidarity and commitment by our member institutions,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “The Council of Presidents has shown tremendous leadership in insuring the ACC is extremely well positioned with unlimited potential.”

Long-time ACC scribe David Teel of the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press estimates that if a school left the ACC now in this 14-year window between now and when the rights agreement expires with the current TV pact (2026-27), it would forfeit about $300 million.

According to various reports, the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 have similar agreements. The SEC does not.

Of course, a grant of rights could be challenged in court. If there is one thing leagues and universities have a lot of, it’s lawyers to help them get what they want.

And, if I have learned one thing in life, it’s that if someone or something REALLY wants to do something, it will find a way to do it—legal agreements or no legal agreements.

But, at least for now, a sigh of relief is being uttered in ACC country. This move appears to stabilize an ACC that looks the most vulnerable for poaching among the major conferences, now that the Big East has been picked apart, blown up and put back together again as a glorified Conference USA.

The Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 aren’t in danger of losing schools. The Big 12 may have some vulnerability. The ACC? It’s primed for poaching in an ever-changing conference landscape. It’s all about increasing your TV footprint. And leagues with strong football programs and strong football histories largely are calling the shots. That’s bad news for the ACC, traditionally a basketball league with weak football.

Maryland recently announced it was jumping the ACC’s ship for the Big Ten in 2014 and must pay a $52 million exit fee. A legal battle rages over that. And speculation swirls that ACC schools North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Duke, Clemson, Virginia and Florida State are possible targets of other conferences looking to bolster their ranks, as momentum seemingly builds toward 16-team super conferences.

Will this ACC rights agreement really protect it—or any other league? Stay tuned.

But, again, know this: What the big boys in life want, the big boys in life usually get—no matter what it says on some legal documents.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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