Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The ACC's decision to expand with Pitt and Syracuse has reportedly paid off with a substantial addition to their television contract's bottom line--though if the addition was substantial enough to justify the drawbacks of that expansion may be debatable.
The Sports Business Journal reported Monday that in the wake of the addition of the Panthers and Orange, the ACC has been able to "reopen" its recently signed contract with ESPN and negotiate a $1 million to $2 million annual increase for each of its now 14 member schools. Under the revised contract, each ACC member "can expect at least $14 million to $15 million a year," an increase from the current $13 million. The overall value of the contract is expected to increase from $155 million per season to north of $200 million.
The increase would bring the ACC nearly on par in annual distribution revenue with the Big 12, which the SBJ estimates currently averages $15 million per school, with the SEC at $17 million and the Big Ten and Pac-12 at $21 million.
But those figures illustrate why the ACC's expansion may not have provided enough buck for its bang. All four of those leagues should see their TV revenues increase in the near future, the Big 12 and SEC through their own expansion-induced negotiations and the Big Ten and Pac-12 through growing profits from their in-house networks. When the dust from the current round of expansion settles, the ACC is likely to still trail four of the five other BCS conferences (though they may have pulled closer to the Big 12, depending on how that league's negotiations go).
There's other downsides to the expansion, too. For one, the revised contract reportedly won't kick in until Syracuse and Pitt become active members of the league, which may not take place until 2014-2015 and certainly won't be in 2012-2013. In exchange for the boost to the contract, ESPN is also expected to exact a not-insignificant price: a three-year extension of what was already a 12-year deal, meaning the ACC won't be able to enter a full contract negotiation until 2026. (If the Big Ten and Pac-12 networks continue at their expected rates of growth, how wide will the gap be between those conferences and the ACC 14 years from now?)
And though a potential $2 million per season is certainly nothing to sneeze at, shuttling not just the football team but volleyball, baseball, tennis (etc.) teams to West Pennsylvania and upstate New York on an annual basis will add to the travel budget. Then there's the fewer games between traditional ACC rivals in both football and basketball (though the nine-game gridiron schedule will help) and increased difficulty for any individual team to earn a championship ... all for a financial windfall that at Clemson equals not much more than a single assistant coach.
Is it worth it? Given that the ACC couldn't really stand pat as those other four BCS leagues pushed the financial gap even wider, John Swofford and Co. probably didn't have any choice. But the first time we watch Georgia Tech play at Heinz Field instead of Death Valley or the Orange disrupt what would have been a Duke-North Carolina ACC Tournament final, we're going to wonder.Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the opening kick of the year all the way through the offseason, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview.
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