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Conference Realignment: ACC Expansion Seems Inevitable

With the SEC making moves, the ACC needs to make up ground to keep pace in the conference weapons race
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The realignment train continues to roll as reports continue to flow about the impending addition of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC. The newest updates have claimed that the two schools will be notifying the Big 12 this week that they will be leaving the conference when their media contracts expire in 2025. Other than a Texas A&M temper tantrum, the deal appears to be all but done. 

Now it is up for the remaining conferences to keep pace with the SEC. While a rash of corresponding moves seems inevitable, what those moves will be remains murky. Many reports have rumored of four super conferences, made up of approximately 16 teams each. While that seems logical, there is another reason for a conference like the PAC-12 or ACC to expand. They both desperately need a new TV deal.

The ACC deal has left the conference in the bottom of the Power Five in terms of school payouts. According to reports, the conference trailed the national leaders the Big Ten, by anywhere from $10-15 million dollars a year per members school. They also trail the SEC by almost ten million a year as well. Last year was particularly bad as they fell even further behind, as the Big Ten reportedly received a full share, that dwarfed the ACC by almost $25 million dollars per school. 

Part of the reason for this disparity is the current deal the conference has with ESPN regarding their television rights. It has been well known that the conference would like to get back to the table and renegotiate, as they are locked in to an unfavorable deal for almost the next two decades that now seems well below market. The year to year payouts lag behind their peer conferences and their deals they have struck . Realignment and adding to the conference would give the ACC the impetus to force ESPN back to the table to renegotiate, thus increasing the revenue the conference could bring in. 

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At this point it seems like expansion seems necessary for the ACC if they want to keep up with the Big Ten and SEC. But who could they add? Of course there is always the white whale, Notre Dame, but unless there is a seismic shift in the landscape, the Fighting Irish seem content to stay independent. They have the ability to create their own schedule, they have basically their own network in NBC, and with changes to the playoff looming, they can write their own ticket to the postseason. 

West Virginia could be an attractive option. The Mountaineers, could be desperate to get out of the new Big 12. They also have a history with former Big East foes like Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Boston College which could make them a fit. They also bring a solid football brand, and a very attractive basketball team that has been one of the best teams in the Big 12 the past few years.

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Or could the ACC look elsewhere? There is always the possibility they could look at a team like Cincinnati, who would greatly benefit from a change of scenery to a Power Five conference. And of course there is UCF, the gold standard for G5 football, but given the existence of two Florida schools in the ACC this may not make sense. Then there are outside of the box moves, poaching other schools from the B12, or even a team like Navy.

Whatever the steps are, adding to the conference seems inevitable for the ACC. If they want to keep pace with the other P5 conferences, they need a new deal with ESPN, and the fastest way to do that is through conference expansion. Stay tuned the next few months, things could get very interesting. 

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