At long last, the days of conference realignment — at least in any significant form or fashion — could be behind us.
The ACC announced today that its 15 member schools have agreed to a "grant of media rights." This means that if a school wishes to leave the league, all of its media rights, including revenue, would stay with the ACC.
This move should effectively end any speculation that the Big Ten or SEC are interested in poaching ACC teams for a couple of reasons. First, the schools wouldn't be able to contribute media revenue to the new conference and, second, the schools would forfeit hundreds of millions of dollars in media revenue in addition to paying the $50 million exit fee.
Now, a school trying to leave the ACC could forfeit as much as $300 million, so that makes it pretty tought to leave no matter who's calling.
The Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12 all have similar agreements in place, and that's a large reason why they've always been seen as more stable than the ACC in terms of realignment (the SEC doesn't have a grant of rights, but, come on, why would you want to leave the SEC?).
The deal is reported to run through the 2026-27 season, which is concurrent with the ACC's ESPN contract. The league's TV deal, which was renegotiated last summer, pays each school $17.1 million annually, but could be a few million higher once the financials of Notre Dame's impending partial membership in the conference are worked out.
Pitt and Syracuse will officially join the ACC on July 1, and Louisville will replace Maryland (moving to the Big Ten) on the same date in 2014. After that, it could be a good long while before we see schools jumping conferences. And I don't think anyone's too disappointed about that.
Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson is expected to have a conference call with reporters this afternoon, so I'll have more reaction from him once that happens.
UPDATE (4:58 p.m.): Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson spoke with reporters on a conference call this afternoon about the new grant of rights, here's some of what he had to say...
On why this is important: "I do understand why people could be skeptical about that, and I think that's why we ultimately said the speculation is not going to end until we do something significant to put an end to it. And certainly there's noting more significant than this, in addition to the continuation of the liquidated damages provision, which is over $50 million. This locks us in as partners for a long, long time."
On the legality of a grant of rights: "I think every institution has looked at this, every general counsel at every institution has looked at this, and so far everybody's comfortable that we know exactly what we're signing and what the commitment is to it. We feel very strongly that we'd put ourselves in a great position here."
On ACC commissioner John Swofford's effort to spearhead the grant of rights: "John spent countless hours working with each institution to make sure that all the i's were dotted and t's were crossed so that we could get an agreement for everybody to sign and that everybody would feel great about it and so really the key to this has been John working with the presidents and athletic directors to bring this to closure."
On whether this means the end of realignment: "I think what you have to look at is the five power conferences now have pretty much solidified themselves in the landscape of college athletics for at least a decade and a half."
On the potential for the ACC to add more members: "We feel great about the group of schools that we have. There have really been no discussion about addition of teams. That's just not been something we've focused on."
On the potential for an ACC TV network: "I think we're going to look at everything going forward. I think ESPN's been a great partner in all this. I think we'll continue to look at everything we can creatively to see what's in the best interest of the ACC and our member school. Discussions of things like networks and so forth are all going to be part of that discussion and review as we go forward."