Monday Notebook: Believe Nothing In Realignment...Until It Happens

Football on a tee

Photo: David Madison / Stone / Getty Images

Arizona to the Big 12? That's so yesterday.

Oregon and Washington won't vote for Pac 12 expansion? C'mon, that's like ancient history.

Life moves fast in the world of conference realignment rumors. What one makes up on twitter(or X) by 11a can be changed into another rumor an hour later.

The ink is barely dry on Colorado's deal to return to the Big 12 and we are all on to the next "BIG" story. But what can you believe? Do you really think a guy on a social media platform with a few followers who contradicts himself within hours is a trusted source? And you can't just say "they will figure out how to pay that $500M they would owe if they left the league."

Remember, no conference expands without the approval of the one group that matters- that would be their media partners. Conferences are not the ones who pay new members, media companies do. And often these conference realignment rumors forget that and they also forget that ESPN is not interested in ending the ACC, who they have a discounted media deal with for 13 more seasons or ending the ACC Network- which they built and own and operate.

So what's real and what is smoke? No one knows. Who do you believe? Who knows. 

Let's take the SEC and Big Ten and what commissioners recently said at their league's annual Media Days. The SEC's Greg Sankey said their focus is on adding Oklahoma and Texas for 2024 and the Big Ten's Tony Petitti added the league is not looking to grow at the present time and is concentrating on integrating USC and UCLA next year. Well, isn't that enough? Not exactly.

The SEC and the Big Ten don't want to be seen as pouching anyone and certainly want to avoid any potential legal action for trying to limit competition. But what if a school made themselves available by leaving a league? Now, one of the big two leagues is not stealing anyone. They would be adding available schools. But getting available is not that easy...for ACC schools.

First, the Pac 12 media deal ends after this coming athletic season and current members have no commitment to the league after this year and can leave with no financial penalty. That is not the case for anyone in the ACC, where the current media deal and Grant of Rights makes the number to leave somewhere between $400-500M. 

But the latest whispers are that FSU and Clemson and perhaps North Carolina and Virginia are ready to challenge the ACC in court. Do I believe it? I don't know what to believe anymore.

I do believe that the thought of UCF making as much, or close to the amount, as FSU will make in the next decade does not sit well with the school and AD Michael Alford. The same applies to the thought of Rutgers making somewhere between $400-500M more the next decade than FSU makes. 

North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham did an interview recently stating they know how much it would cost to leave the ACC and even talked about the "unknown." The "unknown" was adding up the Grant of Rights money($360M), the exit fee($120M) and going to court and arguing that it can't pay that much and trying to reach a financial settlement. That's all well and good but why would the ACC cut them or anyone a deal? The teams leaving would basically be killing the ACC, it's network and current media deal.

But what Cunningham and FSU's Michael Alford may be thinking is: "Look, we need to somehow just get out and do it without it appearing that anyone else made it happen. Then we are free agents and if we can then be taken by either the Big Ten or SEC we can afford to pay $30M a year for a decade and we'd still come out ahead of what we are making now."

Maybe he's right. Maybe he's wrong. Look, I am not saying that if North Carolina, Clemson, FSU and Miami were available tomorrow that neither the Big Ten or SEC would want them. What I am saying is do the media partners of those conferences want more teams? The SEC's media partner, Disney, would be killing its current discounted deal with the ACC to pay more just because they changed conference logos.

Media executive after media executive I have had on my show say there is a saturation point in these mega-conferences and 16 teams might be the number. These are not the times to be asking those media companies to add hundreds of millions of dollars per year on to already high payouts. 

But maybe some of these rumors have legs and let's say the Big Ten wanted Oregon and Washington from the Pac 12 and North Carolina and Miami from the ACC. And the SEC took FSU and Clemson and the Big 12 then added Arizona, Arizona State and Utah, then what? The ACC and the Pac 12 are done as major media leagues. Chaos ensues in courts and teams are scrambling to be relevant. 

Some want that. Many predict it. We'd be killing more rivalries that date back more than a century. We'd create these massive leagues where new rivalries are almost impossible and I really don't know if any of this is good for the games we love. But money and greed doesn't care about your feelings. It never has and never will.

My hunch is something is brewing among ACC schools who think they are worth more and that group is willing to leave others in a heartbeat. I do think FSU, Clemson, North Carolina, Miami and a few others think they have a legal challenge to getting out of their current commitment to the conference and their media partner. The question is how far legally are they willing to go? I just don't see any scenario where the ACC agrees to friendly buyouts that would end their existence.

As for the Big 12 and Pac 12 saga, well I think there is smoke to the Arizona rumors and I think Oregon and Washington are in a tough spot. I don't think they want to commit to any Grant of Rights deal in either league as they hope something opens up in the Big Ten. But they don't know if or when that might happen and if Arizona leaves for the Big 12, do they want to stick around a league whose media deal might be $10-12M less per year than the Big 12?

If Pac 12 commissioner George Kliavkoff really has no media deal that compares to the Big 12 he might want to offer up one way out before he leaves. Call Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark and tell him he has no media deal and offer a merger- again. When Yormark declines, he may then say to Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, Oregon and Washington that you have 72 hours...let me know. 

Presidents and athletic directors get paid a lot of money to do their jobs. When it comes to conference realignment they seem to lose their leadership skills and panic. In the end, most could care less about rivalries and ethics. In the end, it's always about the money and no one wants to be left out...

Final note: New York City's population is just under 9 million. That is greater than 39 states. Wyoming's population is right around 600,000.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content