ACC and Pac-12 officials are discussing a broadcast partnership with ESPN that would bring the two Power 5 leagues from opposite coasts together for a mutually beneficial relationship, sources say. Sports Illustrated.
The proposal, still in its infancy, heavily involves the ESPN-owned ACC network. Under the plan, the ACC Network — or a renamed entity combining the two leagues — will have exclusive rights to broadcast Pac-12 games to West Coast homes via ESPN cable companies. The deal isn’t a merger or consolidation of the leagues, but is instead built around a media rights deal with the world’s sports leader – an effort to cheer on the loss of USC and UCLA by the Pac-12 for the benefit of the Big Ten.
While the joint move could feature marquee non-conference matchups from the West and East Coasts — think Clemson-Washington or Miami-Oregon — the primary reason for the partnership is TV ownership. This would replace the failing Pac-12 network with a reliable provider that can reach millions of homes in the west.
The potential deal could potentially benefit all parties involved: the ACC should receive long-sought additional television revenue; ESPN gets piece of Pac-12 inventory; and the Pac-12 presumably remains intact, with its remaining 10 members enjoying an attractive TV arrangement. It could also be a more desirable alternative for Pac-12 schools than seeking to join the Big 12. At least one Pac-12 source disputed reports of “serious” talks between some remaining schools and the Big 12.
However, those who have been briefed on the ACC-Pac-12 proposal believe that there are many hurdles to jump through and details to iron out before it becomes a reality. It should be a longer-term, deliberate decision that could take weeks or even months to rectify, says an administrator. The key question: Does the arrangement generate enough additional revenue to make it worthwhile?
An administrator with knowledge of the talks said ACC athletic directors first heard about the idea during a conference call on Friday. “It’s something worth exploring, but no details have been put behind it,” the admin said. “The general response was, ‘Give us more [specificity].’”
In a way, the proposal is an extension of the so-called Pac-12 and ACC alliance with the Big Ten, a non-binding agreement announced last year whose purpose was supposed to be to prevent brand new expansion among the Power 5. It was a response to the SEC’s acquisition of Texas and Oklahoma in 2021, but it exploded dramatically when the Big Ten attacked the Pac-12.
In response to this, the ACC and the Pac-12 are scrambling to maintain their relevance in a market that has seen their two main competing leagues – already the richest in college sports – rise dramatically in value. Relatively new to their jobs, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips and Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff have a good working relationship, sources say, and are exploring ways to work together.
For the Pac-12, the partnership may be the best possible solution to retain its remaining members, but is it worth it for the CAC? It’s unclear exactly how much additional revenue the league would generate from such a move. But any extra dollar is a plus, given the limbo of the ACC’s long-term television contract. ACC members are estimated to receive significantly less media rights revenue than their competitors’ new deals in the Big Ten and SEC. The ACC is tied to the deal until 2036.
The new partnership with the Pac-12 may not reopen the contract, but it will change the bottom line. That might be the best option for the ACC, as a full contract renegotiation could pave the way for the league’s most valuable properties — North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Virginia — to explore. As things stand, escaping the ACC rights grant agreement could be both expensive and complicated.
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ESPN is reportedly gaining a foothold on the West Coast, ensuring it has substantial rights to three of the five Power 5 leagues following Fox’s stranglehold on the Big Ten (the network is thought to hold at least a 60% stake in the Big Ten new TV contract). ESPN is expected to take a lead role in Pac-12 negotiations for a new media rights deal, but proceeds have been diminished by the loss of the Los Angeles market. This arrangement could be a way for ESPN to get the most out of a deal with the Pac-12.
Meanwhile, Kliavkoff works to prevent his 10 schools from being poached by a new colleague. Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark, brand new to the job, has been aggressive in his pursuit of the remaining Pac-12 programs. The Big 12 specifically targets the other four Pac-12 South: Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado. The nature of this pursuit is unclear, as is the level of interest from these schools in making a move. With sources indicating that Oregon and Washington do not have a clear and imminent path to the Big Ten, these schools may prefer to stay in the Pac-12, which could, in turn, improve the chances that Arizona , Arizona State, Colorado and Utah remain in the League.
For Kliavkoff, the potential partnership with the ACC would project strength at a time when the Pac-12 is weak and secure something the Big 12 cannot: a regional network television partner. The Pac-12 would grab a lifeline from the ACC at a time when the Big 12 attacks its members.
In an ironic twist, it comes nearly a year after the Pac-12 and ACC decided not to retire the Big 12 teams, which at the time were scrambling after the loss of its two biggest brands. , Oklahoma and Texas, for the benefit of the SEC. The Pac-12 and ACC also declined a partnership with the Big 12 a year ago, triggering the conference to add four new members in Houston, BYU, Cincinnati and UCF, and resulted in the fall of more dominoes from Group of 5 conference in a wave of conference realignment. The next wave is here, sparked by the stunning news last week that USC and UCLA are moving to the Big Ten.
In the meantime, the eyes of many college sportsmen are on an independent Notre Dame. Will the Irish finally be pushed to join a full-time league? And will this conference be the Big Ten? A source familiar with Notre Dame thinking recently told SI: “Independence remains the clubhouse’s preference and leader.” Washington and Oregon also remain attractive brands for the Big Ten, but their fates can be determined based on Notre Dame’s decision – and the Fighting Irish don’t feel like they have to rush.
“It’s all about the money,” says a Pac-12 official. “The SEC got the best of it and the Big Ten got the second and the ACC is stuck in a less than optimal deal. And the Pac-10 – we have to start calling it the Pac-10 now – is figuring out what our new TV deal looks like, and the Big 12, it seems, is after us.
All of this potential movement will be determined by money. Any expansion of the conference means dividing TV dollars in several ways. Thus, each additional school must add substantial value to a league for it to be financially worthwhile.
Does the Big 12 really see the value of adding four or six western schools? Does the ACC think it’s important enough to agree to a media partnership with the Pac-12? And does Notre Dame see the point of joining a league? These questions loom in one of the most uncertain and chaotic times in recent college athletics history.
The gears that drive any decision are obvious, says a prominent sports administrator: “It all comes down to money. »
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• USC, UCLA and Big Ten get theirs, but at what cost?
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• Brady Quinn presents the case for Notre Dame to join the Big Ten