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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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (12 Comments)
J.C. on 4/22/2013 @ 8:38pm EDT Said:

Was looking forward to the possibility of perhaps expanding into Virginia, North Carolina and/or Georgia (Georgia Tech), if Big Ten expansion was still a possibility.

Realizing Rutgers is in the New York/New Jersey television market, still disappointed if Rutgers is the end game in terms of the conference expanding. The athletic department has underperformed for years, with their athletic department having an average of 97.38 for its Director’s Cup ranking for the past decade (close to 50 spots behind the worst Big Ten school’s average).

aroznowski on 4/22/2013 @ 9:29pm EDT Said:

Thank you, ACC!

Oliver on 4/23/2013 @ 12:23am EDT Said:

I was excited about maybe the Big Ten increasing the conference footprint and opening up to the South, but I guess that’s not going to happen. Population seems to not be growing as much in the Midwest. Hope missing out on going where the population is growing doesn’t come back to bite the conference.

Brian on 4/23/2013 @ 9:20am EDT Said:

I thought the moves of Maryland and Rutgers were great, if part of a larger plan (meaning it wouldn’t end with Rutgers). In the end, the Big Ten ended up with…Rutgers? I don’t know why it seems like the SEC got a better deal with expansion and the ACC got a better deal, by keeping its conference together. We got Rutgers?

Mark on 4/23/2013 @ 10:23am EDT Said:

That Big Ten office on the East Coast is now pointless. You might as well open an office in Toledo, Ohio (if opening an office for just three schools). Make a football move (just one BCS era national champion in 2002).

Will on 4/23/2013 @ 12:27pm EDT Said:

I wonder if this would have been a known possibility along with the Maryland BB coach/AD issue, the B1G would have been so hot on the trail of these two institutions? I know the B1G wanted their TV eyes but how is this move looked at now?

Does this re-open the door for Texas and other considerations now?

Tim on 4/23/2013 @ 4:06pm EDT Said:

I hope those GOR can be challenged, because if Maryland and Rutgers is the only move, it’s a bit underwhelming. Maryland is fine. Rutgers is equivalent to a MAC school.

Anthony on 4/23/2013 @ 4:38pm EDT Said:

This article is moronic. If the GOR agreed to by the ACC members can be ignored with a simple lawsuit, then the same can be said for the GOR required of members of the Big 10, Big 12 and Pac 12? The ACC will not be poached. Nobody wants to leave. The conference is in talks with ESPN to put together a network similar to the Big 10 Network. I hope the Big Ten enjoys it’s additions of the bankrupt Maryland athletic program and the perennial soap opera that is the Rutgers athletic program.

theotherbigone on 4/24/2013 @ 3:42pm EDT Said:

Like Tom said, what the BIG boys want they will get.

JC on 4/24/2013 @ 4:27pm EDT Said:

@the otherbigone, Only in your BIG dreams.

Doug Moore on 4/24/2013 @ 5:10pm EDT Said:

I thought the ACC was poaching some pretty good schools for the future (ND, PITT, etc)..I guess the ACC doesnt live on a 2way street? I wonder if girls at ACC schools are allowed to break-up with boyfriends? For the record, I think Marylands best sports are field hockey, lacrosse & soccer..not TV ratings monsters. I imagine Rutgers football would beat the Terps & NYC..SO BIG!

djbuck on 4/27/2013 @ 7:55pm EDT Said:

I’m sure Delany knew it was a possibility. Maryland was added not only for DC but, as a connection to the south. The presence he has always said he wanted.
Otherwise the conference should have stayed at 12.
Kansas and Texas have been mentioned and
the B12 already has Gor. It may put the wheels in motion sooner for entry rather
than waiting until the new BIG broadcast deal.
Latest article on the four ACC teams that have been mentioned
since the Maryland and Rutgers additions.