May 30, 2023

Brighton Journal

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ACC unit, Pac-12 schedule, UConn on the Big 12’s radar? What we hear about the reorganization

The ACC wrapped up a tense few days of spring meetings on Wednesday, and Commissioner Jim Phillips said all members of his league are “absolutely” committed to each other.

Phillips’ comments came on the heels of multiple reports, including from the athletethat seven ACC members have examined the university’s rights grants to determine whether they can be challenged in court, which could pave the way for one or more ACC departures before its media rights agreement expires in 2036.

Virginia Tech Athletic Director Whit Babcock said the Richmond Times-Dispatch The seven schools were Virginia Tech, Virginia, Florida State, Clemson, Miami, North Carolina and NC State and they met together and with attorneys to examine the document.

“I would classify it as a number of conversations, usually in small groups, about interpretations of granting rights, league bylaws, and options that might be out there,” Babcock told the Times-Dispatch. “But you know, granting rights has been considered a lot of times by a lot of people.”

Babcock said the talks were not structured as interpreted from Monday’s reports and that many of the discussions involved subgroups of the seven, rather than the seven all together.

“I think it wasn’t ideal that it was brought up, but it was a catalyst for some real conversations and maybe getting to things a little faster that we’ve been working on as the ACC,” Babcock said.

He and his peers came out of their meetings with grievances aired, positions clear and exploration of efforts to transition to a new revenue model that would reward teams for competitive success. Officials at FSU and Clemson have been most vocal in recent months about their support for unequal revenue distribution. With 12 teams in the College Football playoff in 2024, it’s likely that the teams that go farthest in the postseason will be able to hold more of the league’s allotment of CFP revenue than their peers who don’t.

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After an eventful week in Amelia Island, Florida, nothing has changed for the ACC on an existential level; The league’s revenue gap compared to the Big Ten and the SEC will only double because those two leagues pay an extra $30 million per academic year over the course of the year. But if there is no viable exit ramp for ACC members until 2036, there may be underlying tension and grumbling for some time.

The hype around the seven ACC schools in the spotlight this week posed an interesting question for other major conferences: Could these schools be looking for new landing spots? And if so, will it be available before 2036? Could this possibility have an impact on decisions to expand these conferences in the near term?

Pac-12 Commissioner George Klyavkov. The league still plans to finalize its media rights negotiations before adding any members. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, in the Pac-12

Everyone in the West is still on hold while the officials wait to deliver the league’s new media rights deal(s). multiple league sources said the athlete Announcements of such deals are expected this summer, and Washington State President Kirk Schultz said the same earlier this month In conversation with Wazzu’s guardian.

Schulz attributed the delay in negotiations to “uncertainty in the economy and layoffs in the tech sector and elsewhere. … Obviously, the optics are something these people are really worried about. … If I say when would be the worst time in the last six years to try to negotiate about Media deal, the past five months may have been very close to the worst.”

“I know our fans are frustrated,” Schulz told on Friday. “I ask everyone to be patient because we have more bidders coming to the table, more interested people as time goes on, and the 10 schools are as united as I have ever seen.”

The negotiation process is different (and slower) with media companies that have little or no experience with college football rights. ESPN remains involved in the bidding process as well. A source familiar with the negotiations said that if there is any package of games on ION or The CW, it will be very small and for lower-tier shows.

The league still plans to finalize its media rights negotiations before adding any members. It’s extremely unlikely that the Pac-12 will add more than two schools to fill the voids after USC and UCLA leave the Big Ten in 2024, Pac-12 sources said. It’s also possible that the league could choose to remain in its 10 members (assuming it fends off overtures from the Big Ten). 12) Or add one new member and operate as an 11-team league, like the Big Ten did after it added Penn State.

One significant date — not exactly a deadline per se, but a key milestone — is June 30, 2023. If San Diego State were to attempt to leave the Mountain West after that date to join the Pac-12 in the summer of 2024, the exit fee (about $17 million ) will triple. So either the Pac-12 will make its long-awaited decision on the Aztecs by June 30, or the closest San Diego State can compete in the Pac-12 will be the fall of 2025.

Although it is difficult to speak in absolute terms with the still-in-flux Pac-12 media deal, there is optimism among key managers that the deal will be sufficient for the league’s survival and relatively short-term, while maintaining all existing members with a contract and subsequent grant of rights that It extends anywhere from four to six years. Such an arrangement would stabilize the league for a few years, allowing members to prepare for additional poaching efforts ahead of the next Big Ten, Big 12, and SEC contract negotiations.

Why UConn is on the Big 12’s radar

It’s certainly no secret at this point that the Big 12 is interested in pulling Colorado and Arizona out of the Pac-12. But with that university’s media rights negotiations dragging into the summer and those schools’ leaders still standing by for a final bid, the wait will test the patience of Big 12 commissioner Brett Yurmark.

Yormark continues to explore its options for expanding the Big 12 to a 14- or 16-member conference moving forward. Nothing seems forthcoming in terms of extending invitations to new members, but the first-year commissioner is doing his homework, Big 12 sources said. the athlete.

Expanding west has been an open ambition since Yormark was hired in July, giving the Big 12 the largest national presence and television base in all four time zones. But Yormark has also made it clear that he’s willing to double down on the Big 12’s advantage as the nation’s strongest college basketball conference if he sees goals that add value.

The UConn men’s basketball title this spring sparked greater interest in Yormark, and the school is seen as a potential good fit for several strategic reasons. Tournament-caliber men’s and women’s basketball certainly rank high on this pro list, but there’s also an opportunity to establish more of a presence in the New York City market.

How does UConn football fit in? The Huskies are coming off one of their best seasons in quite some time. Jim Mora had a dramatic turnaround in his debut season, winning six games and getting the program into a bowl game for the first time since 2015. The Huskies haven’t finished with a winning record since they were in the Big East tournament in 2010 and played Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. They have hired six head coaches since then and have lost nine or more games in seven of the last nine seasons. But if given the resources and platform that the Big 12 offers, could they become a more legitimate program by the end of the decade?

Yormark looks at these expansion prospects more from the perspective of a professional athlete, seeing things in more upside terms for the future than for past accomplishments. He’s looking at shows he can invest in by helping build their brands so they’ll eventually be more valuable when it’s time for his next TV deal in 2031.

Sources within UConn’s current league (Big East) and former home (AAC) have expressed doubts about the Huskies’ interest in leaving for the Big 12. One of UConn’s biggest frustrations as a member of the AAC has been its disjointed and scattered league. The nature of the conference and the loss of traditional basketball rivals in the Northeast. When the Huskies returned to the Big East in June 2019, they celebrated by advertising at Madison Square Garden with streamers, banners, and paraphernalia that made it clear they felt like they were back where they belong.

“They worked so hard to get out of a league that required them to go play UCF only to get back into a league where they would have to go play UCF?” said one of the sources of the Big East. “I don’t see her.”

UConn Athletic Director David Benedict to CT Insider on Wednesday that any future realignment decisions would be a “complicated question” for the school.

“The dialogue and commentary there, I fully appreciate and understand people’s opinions,” said Benedict. “Where they are emotionally connected is probably obvious when you see what people say and what their opinions are. But we obviously look at it through a different lens, internally, and there are a lot of factors that you have to take into account.

“At this time, I’m not aware of any decision in front of me that I have to make. So what happens two days from now, two weeks from now, a month from now, six months from now is anyone’s guess. There are a lot of situations that happen. All over the country. There are a lot of conversations. But, ultimately, until you have to make a decision, you don’t know and that’s not where we are right now.”

One of the challenges for Yormark, if he decides UConn is part of his plan, will be building consensus among his board of 12 presidents and advisors. There is some skepticism among league sources as to whether UConn will become increasingly valuable to the conference. Yormark has strong support from his board of directors to pursue what he believes is best since his appointment last July. It’s easy for the Chiefs and Anns to share import Pac-12 schools and the value they’ll drive as fully participating members. But moving in this direction is likely to require further debate and persuasion.

Another important conversation on this front: Can Yormark get its television partners, ESPN and Fox, to back these moves and pay prorated for extras that don’t come from Power 5 tournaments? Or would schools like UConn be willing to take a discounted cut simply for receiving an invitation? This is where these potential moves get trickier. The Big 12 doesn’t necessarily need to expand this summer. But even if Pac-12 targets get a good enough deal to stay put, Yormark can go in a few directions to grow his league.

There is a belief among administrators in and out of the Big 12 that Yormark’s plans to push envelopes go much broader than simply poaching two Pac-12 schools or penning basketball pedigree. He’s trying to position the Big 12 to be the third-strongest power conference going forward — or perhaps the third and final power conference position, if instability within the Pac-12 and the ACC leads to exits that break those leagues. Yes, the most valuable schools would have flocked to the SEC and Big Ten, if they were going to get invitations. But what about the second layer? Schools like Louisville, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, or Duke could be fit for the Big 12 if the dominos fell like that. It may be worth waiting to see what happens elsewhere before making expansion decisions.

(Top photo: Logan Whitton/Getty Images)