The Atlantic Coast Conference Expands, Adding Stanford, California, and SMU to Its Roster

by Chloe Baker
Atlantic Coast Conference Expansion

On Friday, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) approved the inclusion of Stanford, the University of California, Berkeley (commonly referred to as Cal), and Southern Methodist University (SMU), effective next year. This marks a further step in transforming the ACC into a super conference, incorporating two institutions from the disbanding Pac-12 and becoming the fourth major collegiate sports conference in the United States.

Starting in August 2024, the ACC, which has its historical roots in North Carolina’s Tobacco Road, will bolster its football school count to 17 and 18 in the majority of other sports. Notre Dame will maintain its status as a football-independent school within the conference.

ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips expressed enthusiasm about the new additions in an official statement, saying, “The addition of these three exceptional institutions to the ACC promises to enhance the competitive landscape of our esteemed league.”

The move required the approval of 12 of the ACC’s 15 current members, and the vote was not unanimous. Florida State dissented, citing unresolved issues with the ACC’s revenue distribution model.

Florida State Athletic Director Michael Alford clarified the university’s position, stating, “Our vote against this expansion is not a reflection on the quality of these academic and athletic institutions. We remain committed to new revenue opportunities through the ACC’s incentive-based financial model and appreciate the conference’s responsiveness to our concerns.”

The ACC’s expansion solidifies its reach across the United States, from Boston in the Northeast to Miami in South Florida, extending as far west as Dallas, Texas, and Northern California, where Stanford and Cal are located. The league now stands alongside the Southeastern Conference, Big Ten, and Big 12 in having at least 16 football members.

As for scheduling, Stanford anticipates minimal changes for 22 of its 36 sports. University of California, Berkeley, Chancellor Carol Christ pointed out the ACC’s interest in utilizing Dallas as a central location to minimize travel.

This expansion appears to conclude the most recent wave of reconfiguration among the nation’s wealthiest collegiate conferences. The ACC’s new additions are expected to bring in increased media rights revenue through its extended contract with ESPN, benefiting existing members as well.

Cal announced it would not receive a full share of the revenue for the next nine years, as is often the case for new entrants into a conference.

Financially, the ACC has been behind the Big Ten and Southeastern conferences but leads the Big 12 in terms of total revenue. The ACC reported approximately $617 million in total revenue for the 2021-22 season. The conference’s existing deal with ESPN runs through 2036.

The decision to expand has been under consideration by the ACC for more than three weeks and has stirred debates over revenue distribution, specifically the allocation of new revenues from ESPN among current members.

While not all ACC schools were initially supportive of the expansion, it remains unclear which institutions changed their stance. As recently as Thursday night, two trustees from North Carolina universities publicly stated their opposition to the expansion.

Stanford and Cal are the ninth and 10th schools to exit the Pac-12, which has suffered significant losses due to departures to the Big Ten and Big 12. This leaves the Pac-12 with Oregon State and Washington State as remaining members.

Both Stanford and Cal boast athletic programs that have produced notable Olympians, professional athletes, and Hall of Famers, such as John Elway and Katie Ledecky from Stanford, and NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and swimmer Missy Franklin from Cal.

Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) entry marks its return to major conference football for the first time since the program was disbanded by the NCAA in the early 1980s as part of sanctions for violating rules on player payments.

Geographically, the new members might be far from the ACC’s traditional footprint, but they share similarities with smaller private institutions like Duke, Wake Forest, and Boston College, as well as larger state schools such as North Carolina and Virginia that are part of the ACC.

For further information, please visit AP college football website and AP Top 25 College Football Poll.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Atlantic Coast Conference Expansion

What is the significance of the ACC’s expansion by adding Stanford, Cal, and SMU?

The expansion of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) with the inclusion of Stanford, Cal, and SMU marks a significant development in the landscape of U.S. college sports. It broadens the geographical reach of the ACC and positions it as the fourth super conference, joining other major leagues. This move is expected to enhance the competitive landscape and potentially increase media rights revenue for the conference.

How many schools are now part of the ACC following this expansion?

With the addition of Stanford, Cal, and SMU, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) will see its membership grow, increasing the number of football schools to 17 and most other sports to 18. Notre Dame will continue to be a football-independent member of the conference.

Why did Florida State dissent from the expansion?

Florida State voted against the expansion due to concerns regarding the ACC’s revenue distribution model. The university expressed that while its opposition does not reflect on the quality of the new institutions, it aims to ensure its interests in revenue distribution are adequately addressed.

What are the financial implications of this expansion for the ACC?

The inclusion of Stanford, Cal, and SMU is expected to provide a boost to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s (ACC) media rights revenue. The extended contract with ESPN will likely result in increased financial benefits for both the new and existing conference members, potentially narrowing the revenue gap with other major conferences.

How will this expansion impact the ACC’s geographical footprint?

The ACC’s expansion will result in a broader geographical reach for the conference. It will span from Boston in the Northeast to Miami in South Florida, extending west to Dallas and Northern California, where Stanford and Cal are located. This cross-country expansion aligns the ACC with other major super conferences.

What changes can be anticipated for the new members, Stanford, Cal, and SMU?

Stanford has indicated that a majority of its sports will experience minimal scheduling changes. Cal has pointed out that the ACC plans to utilize Dallas as a central location to minimize travel for teams. The exact details of how the expansion will affect these institutions’ participation in ACC activities are yet to be fully outlined.

How does this expansion affect the overall landscape of U.S. collegiate conferences?

The ACC’s expansion represents the latest evolution in the changing landscape of U.S. collegiate conferences. With the inclusion of new members and the formation of super conferences, the collegiate sports scene continues to adapt to shifts in membership, revenue generation, and competitive dynamics.

How did Stanford and Cal’s decision to join the ACC come about?

Stanford and Cal’s decision to join the ACC is influenced by the changing dynamics in collegiate conferences. With the Pac-12 undergoing reconfiguration and other institutions making moves, Stanford and Cal sought to secure their positions within a major conference that aligns with their goals and interests.

What impact does this expansion have on other conferences, particularly the Pac-12?

This expansion affects the Pac-12 by leading to further departures of its member schools. Stanford and Cal are among the schools leaving the Pac-12, and their exit contributes to the challenges faced by the conference. The Pac-12’s landscape has been impacted by realignment, with implications for its future structure and competitiveness.

How does the ACC’s expansion align with the broader trends in collegiate conference realignment?

The ACC’s expansion aligns with the broader trend of collegiate conference realignment, characterized by schools seeking opportunities to enhance their competitive positions and revenue streams. The movement of institutions between conferences, formation of super conferences, and negotiations with media partners are key factors in shaping the evolving landscape of collegiate sports.

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BballFanatic September 2, 2023 - 2:38 am

florida state aint so sure bout this, they got concrns on $$$ sharin’, othrwis, ACC growin’ strong!

SportsNerd23 September 2, 2023 - 6:16 am

So ACC gettin’ all cross-country, from Bston to Miami, all the way to Cali? Intrsting geograpical play!

InfoHunter22 September 2, 2023 - 11:03 am

ESPN makin’ ACC richer, new schools mean more $$$, othr conferences watch out, ACC ain’t playin’!


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