ACC’s new TV deal must close the gap with the SEC



Greensboro, N.C.—The ACC expanded in 2004 to add Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech for one very important reason: The league wanted to go to 12 teams in order to make sure it didn’t lose its seat at the table—both competitively and financially–with the big boys of college football.

In most aspects, expansion has been a success for ACC football. No, the league has not been in the national championship discussion lately, but it has done very well at the bank. In 2005 it signed a new seven-year television contract with ABC and ESPN for a reported $258 million. Simply because of expansion, the ACC went from making about $21 million per year on televised football to about $37.6 million per year. Last year the ACC sent a record 10 teams to bowl games. So from a purely financial standpoint, expansion has worked.

But that was then and this is now. And right now the SEC has changed the entire landscape of college sports with its staggering 15-year, $3 billion agreements with ESPN and CBS.

 “The SEC deal is certainly huge in terms of the dollars and the length of the agreement,” Swofford said when I met with him at the ACC Football Kickoff. “There is usually a separation of some kind that is inevitable when new deals are struck. But I will admit that this separation is larger than most.”

The SEC deal impacts everything and everybody. Conservatively, SEC schools expect to see their annual shared revenue jump from about $11 million per school to over $16 million per school per  year. That is a game changer in a competitive market. While other conferences like the ACC are cutting costs (the ACC cut its budget by 6 percent for the coming year) the SEC is suddenly flush with cash. There is more money to attract the best coaches. There is more money for recruiting. The increased exposure gives the SEC an edge in recruiting.

The ACC’s television deals expire after the 2011 season and Swofford made it clear that his league must find a way to close that gap in the next television contract.

Here is the problem. The SEC agreed to its deal in the summer of 2008, right before the bottom dropped out of the economy. The ACC is trying to negotiate its new deal in a lousy economy.

And in order to maximize its dollars in the next television contract, the ACC may have to get creative—and a little bold. It is only a concept right now, but the ACC could eventually join forces with another conference–say the Pac-10–to give greater negotiating power with the networks.

By design, the ACC’s lucrative men’s basketball contracts are up for renewal at the same time as football. In the past, these contracts have been negotiated separately because basketball carried so much weight. Swofford said that the two sports may be joined into one contract next time around. So basketball could be used to as leverage to maximize football revenue.

Swofford made it clear that his first choice in these negotiations is to stick with the ACC’s current television partners: ABC, ESPN, and Raycom. But the SEC said goodbye to some of its TV partners when it sold everything to ESPN and CBS. Because of what the SEC has done, the ACC is going to face some tough choices in the next two years.

“We just have to see how this plays out, but yes, these are important negotiations for us. What it’s about is doing the best with what you have, whether it’s a lot or a little,” said Swofford. “With all that said, I’d rather have a lot than a little.”


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117 comments Add your comment

Bo Williams

July 28th, 2009
8:33 pm

Given UNC’s recent recruiting success, Butch Davis as coach, and the school itself, why do you think it will not succeed in football. It certainly did under Mack Brown! Every kid in Ga, SC and NC wants to go to school there. Now, the good football players are following suit.


July 28th, 2009
9:24 pm

As a college football fan, I hope that ALL of the conferences out there are profitable and will weather this economic storm. Back in the 70’s, both FSU and Miami gave considerable thought to dropping their football programs. That would have been very sad and damaging to the sport itself. Can you imagine…NO F$U or scUM to despise!!!


July 29th, 2009
12:19 am

Tide Rising, I had no clue who Tom Obrien was. So I Googled him. It seems that Tom Obrien sells a lot of Jeeps from his dealership in Indiana, but what does that have to do with football? Let’s face it guys, if you were a sports reporter would you prefer interviewing Jim Grobe or Spurrier? Grobe has to be one of the best coaches in the country, but Spurrier is better copy. Steve will say something that sells papers. Ya’ll haven’t caught on yet, have you? CFB is about making money, period. Of course, any University president would love to have a BCSNC, but, they will gladly skip a MNC if their program brings in enough money.


July 29th, 2009
12:52 am

Congraulations SEC. You are finally making more than the ACC. For years now the ACC has had a higher per school payout than the SEC or anyone. Now this new deal has put the SEC ahead. But as Tony points out the ACC will probably leverage ACC basketball with football to get a good package. As for the ACC football championship, it goes to Charlotte in 2010 and probably won’t leave because it is such a central location for ACC fans and is in right in the base. Nobody but FSU, Miami and GT could drive to Tampa for the game. Being in Charlotte will make a big difference with that game.

[...] ACC TV talk remains a focus. The Charlotte Observer and the AJC both had articles on the topic. The key will be hoops. But as the BCI guys showed, BC is holding [...]


July 29th, 2009
5:41 am

With all due respect to the Tiger and SEC who keep bringing up the 48-7 game over my Hokies, we did play a 1-1 series. You crushed us, kudos (your stadium and fans are excellent btw). Don’t forget we beat you all in a rebuilding year for us by almost 3 td’s. We also took Bama by 31 in a Bowl game some years ago. The SEC is king when it comes to football but if we could ever get Miami and FSU back into the ball game we would have a fine football conference to go with the excellent basketball league. There is no need to try and surpass or equal the SEC, they are # 1 for good reason. We need better leadership at the top so we can get centrally located ACCCG instead of pushing it farther south into Florida each year, farther away from every school except FSU and the Canes.

An Actual College Graduate

July 29th, 2009
11:24 am

Is there a school in the SEC that gives out anything higher than an associates degree outside of Vandy? Just wondering… Too bad the SEC is LAST in the nation in the actual reason that universities are supposed to exist, education. I guess if I was from Alabama or Mississippi I would try to hang my hat on football too. The SEC is everything that is wrong and out of control in college sports and it is regularly illustrated by the posts of SEC fans on this board.

Atlanta Gator

July 29th, 2009
11:35 am

“An Actual College Graduate”—-Thank you for your snarky comment, clearly based in either ignorance or intentional denial.

Writing on behalf of my alma mater, the University of Florida, I can assure you that there are several universities in the SEC which successfully combine academics and athletics. Florida is one of them—it is one of the 3 largest universities in the country, it has one of the three most comprehensive offerings of degree programs, consistently has among the 10 most National Merit scholars, is a member of the American Association of Universities (the premier grouping of North American research universities), and it’s ranked among the top 50 universities in the world on the basis of the volume and quality of its scholarly research and output.

Moreover, my school’s football team can drop-kick your school’s football team into next year . . . any questions, smart guy?

Atlanta Gator

July 29th, 2009
11:38 am

BTW, Mr. Know-it-all, one uses the subjunctive tense, not the past tense, when one is making a conditional statement (i.e. “If I were from Alabama or Mississippi . . .”).


July 29th, 2009
2:27 pm

Long Dawg said:

ACC by the numbers
1. 6 and 6 vs the SEC in 2008 (50% of ACC victores over Vandy& Miss.St.)

That may be so, but the rest of the ACC wins were over South Carolina, Georgia & Ole Miss. And that Ole Miss team beat Florida & Texas Tech, so you can’t go snarking about Ole Miss being a “second-tier” team in the SEC…

An Actual College Graduate

July 29th, 2009
3:03 pm

Hahahaha! I love it when SEC fans act defensive when someone actually “snarks” back. As usual, ya’ll can dish it out but can’t take it. Nobody cheats more than the SEC and if ya’ll were give the same treatment SMU was given 30 years ago, half the conference would be without football. Every single one of you would sell half your academic departments and professional schools down the river to win a BCS game and it is proven everyday by your academic v athletic accomplishments. That is why ya’ll will always be a joke no matter how many MNCs you win. No amount of money buys class, so enjoy your newfound riches for once again you represent everything that is wrong in college athletics. This despite Tebow, who seems to be a flower floating on a stinking sewage pond of excess. Every other conference has top notch major public universities like Michigan, UCLA, Texas, Cal, UNC, UVA and GT. The SEC has………Florida? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Georgia? Even better! Forget the private schools, cause Vandy ain’t Stanford or Duke but it still is a good school. Love the Florida argument that volume of research makes quality though. This isn’t used cars bro, it’s about education. I appreciate the attempt however. Have your TV contract, I would rather have a degree worth the paper it was printed on.

Atlanta Gator

August 1st, 2009
12:13 am

An “Actual” College Graduate—-Speaking as someone who has “actually” earned more than one university degree (two of which are from Florida, one from UVa), who has “actually” worked in university administration and understands the way academic professionals “actually” evaluate universities, and who has “actually” conducted job interviews of young graduate students from all of the ACC and SEC schools, I can say with some authority that you actually have no clue about what you speak.

If you want a quick education, run Wikipedia and Google searches on “AAU,” “ARWU,” and Webometrics Rankings of World Universities. The University of Florida surpasses three-quarters of the ACC schools. Moreover, Florida’s undergraduate admissions standards are more difficult than 7of 12 ACC schools (CU, FSU, Maryland, Miami, NCSU, VT are nobody’s Ivy League alternatives), and Florida’s standards are comparable to those of UNC and Georgia Tech. Only BC, UVa, and Wake Forest have marginally more difficult admissions standards (and Florida is nine times the size of Wake Forest, almost four times the size of BC, and over twice the size of UVa).

There’s no fool like a damn fool, and you’re apparently one of the latter. As an alumnus of the University of Florida, I don’t need to be “defensive” about my alma mater, but I am surely not going to let your ignorance pass for truth.

Catch a clue, Snarky. Sarcasm is not the answer. One day, with some maturity, you may eventually learn that there is more to life than mocking that which you fail to understand.

BTW, I am not your “bro.” Most adults prefer not to be addressed as such, but I suspect you’ll learn that in future job interview and evaluation.

Are you kidding?

August 3rd, 2009
9:51 am

Florida is as on par with UNC or GT? Hhahahahahahahahahaha! What have you been smoking? Not even in the same league. You must be the worst admissions officer ever, or the best maybe if I were some mediocre student trying to get into school…

Are you kidding?

August 3rd, 2009
10:04 am

Good job keeping the football players out of the police blotter this year too, Florida man! What fine representatives of such an “actual” university. Once again, SEC fans are happy to trash everyone else but when the truth is pointed out about the low standards of their schools or should I say football programs that masquerade as such, they become defensive instead of the usual brash ignorance. You should be embarrased at the mockery of higher education that the SEC is.

just a fan

August 9th, 2009
5:51 pm

Hay look folks, I’ve got cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, that went to differant schools. Its hard for most people to understand but I love Ga. Tech and UGA.The tech. people call me a undercover bulldog. The Ga. people call me a fair weather fan. But I gotta tell ya. if you go to visit the facilities at the schools you’re gonna see a big differance in Tech and UGA. Ga. has alot of money in the BUTTS-Maeir bldg. The same type building at Tech is no comparison. I guess Tech just doesn’t get the financial help as UGA does.

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155 Mil per year over double previous deal!!

May 17th, 2010
12:47 pm