ACC administrators held informal discussions about a possible Pac-12, Big 12 addition or merger

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After USC and UCLA expressed interest in joining the Big Ten this summer, multiple sources said ACC executives held informal conversations about adding Big 12 and Pac-12 membership or a possible merger of the three leagues.

The Raleigh News & Observer first reported the discussions.

Multiple ACC sources told ESPN that expansion remains a discussion, but as one executive noted, “Nothing is imminent.”

Citing text messages obtained through a RTI request, The News & Observer reported on Friday North Carolina president Kevin Guskiewicz and athletic director Bubba Cunningham have discussed a possible “partnership” with two Power Five leagues that recently lost members in realignment, including references to a conversation Cunningham had with former Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney.

Cunningham told ESPN on Friday, after the USC and UCLA news, that the speeches represent “a historical account of what we’re talking about on June 30,” but they don’t necessarily reflect current thinking.

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One source said the discussions — inside and outside the league — were informal, revealing whether a restructuring would be a possible path forward.

“The important part of this is patience and planning,” said one executive, referring to a portion of the text messages described by the News & Observer. “That’s important [conversations] With an AD and a president, but I don’t know that got anywhere.”

Both the Big 12 and Pac 12 have media rights contracts expiring over the next two years. The ACC’s package with ESPN runs through 2036, and with that deal, each of the 14 current members — along with Notre Dame in all sports except football — signed over their media rights to the league through the terms of that TV deal. No team can leave the ACC until 2036. It will not lose access to television broadcasts of their games until 2036. That, many executives said, is a binding force that gives the ACC more time to weigh its options.

However, there is a large — and growing — revenue gap between the ACC (which posted a record $578 million for the 2020-21 fiscal year) and the SEC and Big Ten. Generates more than $1 billion annually.

ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips has said that “all options are on the table” as the league looks for ways to close that revenue gap. The league recently partnered with FishBait Solutions to identify potential revenue streams to help boost the league’s finances, but expansion is under consideration.

While multiple league sources say no team outside of Notre Dame has offered a clear and substantial revenue boost through expansion, the ACC hopes to prevent any potential moves that could put the Big 12 or Pac-12 at risk. Clear no. 3 Its place as convention.

“We need to think about what results we want?” According to the News & Observer, Cunningham texted his principal. “What are our priorities? Do we want to maintain all the teams in the ACC? This is a new league? Do we want to keep the same number? [sponsored sports] In every school? Should we play a national schedule or a regional schedule?”

According to the News & Observer, Kuzkiewicz was open to the idea of ​​a national brand for the league if it joined the Big 12 and Pac-12.

“We can have a super conference athletically and academically,” Guskiewicz texted, according to the News & Observer. “Probably called the Atlantic-Pacific Athletic Conference (APAC). Maybe it’s crazy, but if it gets us a better TV deal, it might be worth considering.”

The ACC wants to renegotiate its current TV deal, which has been far-fetched by recent deals signed by both the SEC and the Big Ten, and the large-scale expansion is a way to push TV partners to the negotiating table. But Phillips continued to say he was eager to work with ESPN to secure the ACC’s future success, and several athletic directors said all programs would continue to be supported by television partners.

“Anything you can do to improve our current relationship with ESPN is certainly something we’re working very hard on right now,” Cunningham said.

Expansion isn’t the only option on the table. One executive said the league is currently discussing “dozens” of options, while another said, “We’re always having conversations about what’s best for us for the league.”

During the ACC’s kickoff event in July, Phillips tried hard to avoid the prospect of college football becoming super-conferences, using his time to promote the value of education and promote a more diverse athletic landscape. Two or three “super conferences” dominate the industry.

Phillips hoped to establish something on hold in 2021 with a “handshake agreement” to create a working relationship between the Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten, but when the Big Ten added USC and UCLA, the so-called “coalition” began. Done. Following this, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said he hoped his league would continue to explore expansion, while the Big 12 and Pac-12 have publicly sparred over the potential of each other’s most prestigious schools.

Phillips noted that the ACC is in a power position — because its revenue is expected to exceed that of USC, UCLA, Texas and Oklahoma (scheduled to move to the SEC in 2025) than the Pac-12 or Big 12. New homes, as it operates its own network in partnership with ESPN, and the granting of rights binds members together in the future.

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