ACC’s Exploring Expansion, But is League Avoiding Biggest Issue?

Clemson could have some company in the ACC soon if what started as exploratory expansion conversations turn into full-blown conference additions. 

Nothing is set in stone, yet, including NOT bringing in new teams to the league, but multiple reports Wednesday have the ACC coming closer to possibly adding Cal and Stanford from what used to be a full Pac-12 and SMU from the AAC. 

The ACC is looking to be reactive to what’s been a wild week in conference realignment. 

This week’s developments

  • ESPN reported Monday that the ACC was looking into Cal and Stanford, two of the four teams left since the Pac-12 basically disintegrated last Friday, and a meeting between athletic directors took place. 
  • ACC presidents met Tuesday morning to evaluate the options. Shortly after, it became apparent that SMU was a potential addition as well, which would bolster the league to 17 teams in football and 18 in all other sports.
  • Another meeting is planned today to review and discuss, and ESPN’s David Hale reported that a vote to expand is not on the docket, but that could change. 
  • It’s also been reported that the league needs 12 of the 15 votes (Notre Dame gets a say) to add new members. Clemson, North Carolina and Florida State might not be on board with expansion, but that’s not enough schools against it if it does come down to a vote. 
  • As for the financial side, Ross Dellenger of Yahoo! Sports reported that Cal and Stanford would receive a partial share worth 60-70% of the league revenue. SMU is willing to take no money for the first five years in the conference, and extra money coming from TV partner ESPN to the current members would only result in offsetting new traveling costs that would come with playing road games on the West Coast and in Texas. 
  • As for now, expansion feels very much up in the air for the ACC, but it’s much more liklier on Wednesday than it felt Monday. Realignment feels like a roller coaster at times, and maybe the ACC does indeed add. 
  • It would be a very reactionary move that doesn’t match the current themes of expansion. The Big Ten and SEC have added big names the last two years to create more marquee games within league play, something the TV networks crave and push. 

Moving the needle?

Bringing two West Coast teams and an AAC member won’t give the ACC the same result and could actually give the league a worse image. Cal has only had three winning seasons in the last 10 years. Stanford had a great eight-year run under David Shaw before posting four consecutive losing seasons and moving on from the former head coach. 

SMU had great success in the 1980s before a pay-for-play scandal and the NCAA’s death penalty set the program back decades. The Mustangs have posted a winning season in five of the last six years, but they’ve never challenged for a title in the AAC.

None of the three schools move the needle in football, the pure cause for much of the realignment moves and large TV contracts in other leagues.

What about the big boys?

And then there’s the elephant in the room: Florida State and Clemson. The Seminoles have been brash about wanting more revenue, whether it comes from the ACC or another conference. The grant of rights, which runs through 2036, is holding the league together, and it would cost $120 million just to exit the ACC. Then any schools that leave would have to pay all of their TV revenue from another league to the ACC or buy their way out of the ACC’s contract, which could cost anywhere from $250 to $450 million, depending on who you ask and what a potential settlement might look like. 

While nobody at Clemson is talking like at FSU, it’s believed that the Tigers are more aligned with the Seminoles when it comes to the future. And if Clemson had a landing spot in the Big Ten or SEC, it would probably take it and figure out the ACC’s grant of rights later. 

The deadline to announce intent to leave the ACC for the 2024 season is Aug. 15. There has been no clear indications that Clemson, FSU or anybody else is planning on pulling off a departure by that date.

Expanding, according to multiple reports, would NOT break the ACC’s grant of rights, so agreeing to expand wouldn’t give those schools a clear avenue out of the league scott-free. 

More questions than answers

No school presidents or athletic directors in the ACC have publicly spoken on potential expansion, so there are several questions that remain unanswered: 

  • What’s the ACC”s motive to add more teams?
  • Is it a move for the future to give the league numbers in case FSU or Clemson (or both) bolt in the next couple of years?
  • Will the ACC hold its status among Power 5 (or Power 4) and have a solid place in the 2024 12-team College Football Playoff whether it adds teams or not?
  • Can ESPN ever get this conference more money and is adding three teams going to aid that beyond just covering travel costs?
  • Is this going to be a logistics nightmare if teams close to the Atlantic Ocean start making trips out to the Pacific?
  • Does anybody care about non-football sports? 
  • How is this going to fix the ACC’s biggest issue, which is the need to add marquee games and heighten the image of the league?

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, and recruiting analyst Jason Priester on any subject. Click here to become a member of the ALL CLEMSON message board community today!
Do us a HUGE favor and like, subscribe and follow us on social media:
►LIKE us on Facebook:
►FOLLOW All Clemson on Twitter:

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
%d bloggers like this: