ACC schools, including Pitt, grant TV rights to league
With Pitt ready to join July 1, the ACC took a bold step Monday toward stabilizing its corner of the collegiate athletics landscape.
All 15 current and future ACC members signed a grant of media rights that will force any school wishing to leave to forfeit to the conference its TV revenue for the remaining 14 years of its contract with ESPN.
Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said the agreement, first proposed by conference commissioner John Swofford, solidifies a league he believes already was strong.
The agreement, which includes all sports, essentially would cost a departing institution $330 million through the 2026-27 academic year, including $20 million per year in TV revenue and a $50 million exit fee.
“There has been some speculation that one school or another might consider something else,” Pederson said. “But when I sat in a room with the other 14 (institutions), I never sensed any of that.
“This not only legally binds one another, but it puts some teeth into what we have been saying that we are together, and we are going to be moving forward together.”
Pederson said every school's general counsel examined the agreement.
“Everybody is comfortable that we know exactly what we are signing,” he said.
Swofford praised conference presidents for acting to strengthen the conference.
“The council of presidents has shown tremendous leadership in insuring the ACC is extremely well positioned with unlimited potential,” he said in a statement.
Among several schools reported to be considering other options was Florida State.
FSU president Eric J. Barron tried to put that speculation to rest, and he raised the possibility of an ACC TV network that might be mirrored after the highly successful Big Ten Network.
“Florida State University's vote in this matter demonstrates FSU's commitment to the Atlantic Coast Conference and constitutes a further affirmation of the ACC brand,” Barron said in a statement. “We are also very pleased that we will be moving forward on the next phase of developing an ACC network.”
Along with Maryland, Florida State last year voted against raising the exit fee from $20 million. Monday's vote was unanimous.
The ACC is expanding from 12 to 15 members, with Pitt and Syracuse set to join at the end of the current school year and Notre Dame entering in all sports but football. Next year, Louisville will join, and Maryland will depart for the Big Ten.
When the ACC first negotiated its contract with ESPN, each member school was due about $17 million per year in TV revenue.
Pederson said the addition of Notre Dame “enhanced” the media rights agreement. He didn't quantify the enhancement, but ESPN has reported the deal is expected to increase to at least $20 million.
Pederson said there has been no talk of further expansion.
“We think it's a pretty good number,” he said.
The ACC becomes the fourth power conference with a grant of media rights, joining the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12.