Sound the alarms. Press the panic button.
The strongest signal Clemson's ever needed to vacate from the Atlantic Coast Conference hit with seismic force Thursday when UCLA and USC officially announced intentions to leave the Pac-12 Conference for the Big Ten.
This is a reverb that will be felt harder and longer than last summer when the SEC poached Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12. The latest move in conference realignment spells the beginning of a new era in college football: super conferences.
Sure, this has been bantered about on sportstalk radio and over cold drinks among friends for decades, but it's finally becoming a reality. This isn't like a decade ago when "rumors" persisted that Clemson and Florida State were jumping to the Big 12.
It won't be long before FSU, Miami, Clemson and anybody else who's serious about football figure out what those other four conference shakers realized: Jump aboard the money train when the opportunity arises or get left behind. That's the dilemma facing the Tigers right now. Not 10 years from now. And definitely not 2036, when the ACC grant of rights comes to an end.
USC and UCLA jumping to the Big Ten in 2024 means big-time paydays for not just them, but the rest of that new super league members once their new TV deal with multiple suitors gets worked out in the coming months.
You see, Clemson has a math problem, and it's not that complicated. If Big Ten teams do indeed reach the $100 million mark, the SEC will likely command something similar when its new contract comes up a year from now.
That puts nearly half of the Power 5 in a whole other stratosphere when it comes to money, power and respect.
Meanwhile, Clemson is making about $35 million per season now in the ACC. Accoriding figures from a data analysis firm called Navigate in March, ACC members can expect to pull around $60 million by 2029.
That'll be half a decade into new deals for the SEC and Big Ten. There's no telling what their facilities and resources look like by then.
Those schools will be pulling in three times what Clemson can make right now. The ACC isn't likely to command a new TV deal before 2036. Why would ESPN suddenly dump a ton more money into the schools just to help them keep up with other leagues? Especially when you consider they're going to be pouring cash into either the Big Ten or the SEC (or maybe even both).
Regardless, by 2036, the arms race would be over with where this move is tracking. Those 32 super-league teams are likely going to add more, strengthen their positions and payouts and maybe even become so rich and powerful that they leave the old model of college athletics behind.
Clemson Ranked In Top Four of Preseason USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll
The USA Today Sports AFCA Preseason Coaches Poll was unveiled on Monday, with the Clemson Tigers ranked inside of the top four.
Tee Higgins Limited in Bengals’ Training Camp
CLEMSON, S.C. — Wide receiver Tee Higgins has been limited in practice thus far in Cincinnati’s preseason camp, but that is not worrying the former Clemson Tiger.
2023 CB Announces Commitment to Clemson
Clemson adds to its 2023 recruiting class, picking up a commitment from CB Shelton Lewis.
After all, the NCAA is disintegrating right in front of us. Sweeping change has already occurred with name, image and likeness and the ability to transfer freely via the portal. That's only the beginning.
There's an expanded College Football Playoff coming. There is and will be even more of a push to give conferences their own governing rights.
What happens when the SEC is so flush with cash that it guarantees scholarships to all college baseball players who come to their league? Total domination in recruiting, that's the answer.
The Big Ten might start paying college basketball coaches so much money, combined with NIL and unlimited resources, that NBA teams become jealous.
As for football, there will only be one national title anyone will recognize: the one the super leagues deem noteworthy and it'll probably involve only their teams.
So what can Clemson do? After all, the ACC grant of rights would force the school to pay a massive fee of upwards of $50 million to leave the league. Well, here are some options:
Sit tight and do nothing: Not always the most prudent choice but it would allow things to settle and for the powers that be at Clemson to carefully evaluate the landscape. Maybe the Tigers will eventually get approached years from now and have the financial backing to leave the league. It involves patience in a landscape that isn't slowing down. Plus, how far behind are you willing to fall financially?
Push the ACC to get a bigger deal: As noted above, this doesn't seem like a logical or rational move for the league's TV partner, but how can the league be viable and compete when two other conferences are making $50 million or more per team, per season. It would take some strong persuasion. Wouldn't it be ironic if former commissioner John Swofford's last gift to the ACC, locking in its teams, turns out to be the downfall of the conference?
Wait for Notre Dame to join the ACC: Good luck with this one. Yes, it would shift the dynamics in a huge way for the league. However, the Irish have been incredibly reluctant, outside of the 2020 COVID-19 season, to join the conference. The long-coveted, crown jewel of independent football does whatever it wants how it wants when it comes to scheduling and TV revenue. ND becoming a full-fledged member of football could probably benefit the Irish and it would certainly dictate a change and bump in television revenue across the conference, but who wants to wait on the Irish to make a move they have never felt was necessary? What if tomorrow never comes?
Call the SEC or Big Ten yesterday: Don't delay the inevitable. If this is truly the power shift that creates true super leagues, it wouldn't be wise to wait on reaching out to see if either of those conferences would be willing to help with paying the ACC's exit fees. Do you think Miami and Florida State will bolt if there's a clear way out and a chance to compete at the highest levels? Are there enough spaces for all three to go at the same time or is it about being proactive?
It's impossible to speculate on what ideas and thoughts are running rampant through other athletic departments, but Clemson is in a new era. Football has been great to this school for nearly a decade, and the brand has never been bigger. Revenue is as strong as it's ever been, but it can't get left behind.
As we saw Thursday, everything changes overnight. The Tigers can't be left feeling like Oregon or Stanford or Baylor or Oklahoma State. It's time to explore life outside of the ACC for the first time in nearly 70 years.
The future gain far outweighs the initial cost.
Want to join in on the discussion? 100% FREE! Interact with fellow Tiger fans and hear directly from publisher Zach Lentz, deputy editor Brad Senkiw, recruiting analyst Jason Priester and staff writer Will Vandervort on any subject. Click here to become a member of the ALL CLEMSON message board community today!