The expansion vote tells us one important thing: The ACC is here to stay

The expansion vote tells us one important thing: The ACC is here to stay

Chris Graham

accIt’s official. NC State flipped, giving the ACC Board of Directors the necessary 12th vote to approve Stanford, Cal and SMU for membership on Friday.

And with the expansion, it would appear that the ACC is here to stay.

State had been in league with UNC, Florida State and Clemson in blocking the additions. What it was that ultimately got the school’s leadership to change its mind isn’t public knowledge right now, and may not be.

The president of NC State, Randy Woodson, issued a statement on the vote that was both devoid of sound and fury and signified nothing.

“The NC State brand, and historical competitiveness of our programs, is already well-recognized and established. The addition of these outstanding universities gives us even greater opportunities to build on the Wolfpack’s national presence, which in turn will generate more long-term benefits for our student-athletes, our athletic programs, and our loyal fan base,” Woodson said in the statement.

Basically what he was saying there: please disperse, nothing to see there.

The move to add the three newbies would seem to spell an end, for now, and for the foreseeable future – and I’m meaning well into the future, circa 2036, thereabouts – the idea that the ACC is going to shed members.

NC State, UVA, Virginia Tech and Miami, all of which voted in favor of the expansion in the 12-3 vote of league presidents earlier today, were members of the so-called Magnificent Seven, schools that had discussed amongst themselves their options for leaving the conference, which would seem to hinge on a mass exodus as the impetus.

The stumbling block for any school that would want to go it alone there – ahem, Florida State, looking at you here – is the grant of media rights that the member schools agreed to back in 2016.

That 20-year grant of rights expires in 2036, coinciding with the end of the current TV deal with ESPN.

The grant of rights gives the conference each school’s revenues from the broadcasts of their home athletics contests.

A school leaving the conference would, thus, give up their TV money for the duration of the grant of rights, on top of the $120 million exit fee.

We’re talking somewhere in the area of $35 million to $40 million per year there, plus that $120 million exit fee, which is obviously a no-go.

Such was the genius of the move back in 2016 to get everybody on board there.

It has been speculated that the only sure-fire way for anybody to get out of the grant of rights would be for the conference to vote from within to cease to exist – basically, getting eight schools to inform the others that they’re leaving, which would, in turn, in theory, dissolve the ACC’s current operating agreement.

That looked to at least be a possibility as recently as a few weeks ago, with FSU leaders talking, loudly, publicly, about their desire to leave the conference, and rumblings to that effect coming from behind the scenes at other schools, including UVA, whose president, Jim Ryan, is the current chair of the ACC Board of Directors.

“This is a significant day for the ACC as we welcome Cal, SMU and Stanford to this incredible conference,” Ryan said in a statement today. “This expansion will enhance and strengthen the league now and in the future. We greatly appreciate the tireless efforts of Commissioner Jim Phillips throughout this entire process, especially his focus on minimizing travel burdens for student-athletes, and we are excited about the ACC’s collective future.”

What happened today is significant for the future of the ACC. Four of the schools that had talked with each other about maybe bolting just voted to expand the conference, which seems to make it very clear where they stand.

This, in turn, will make it harder for the folks at Florida State and Clemson, which is also said to be interested, very interested, in better monetizing its athletics budget, to be able to do anything.

The easy way out just left the building.

The ACC, like it or not, Florida State, sorry to pick on you, but, still, you’re here to stay, because the ACC is here to say.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page,