Chris “The Dude” Lambert | April 2, 2013 | Morgantown, WV
The question I get asked the most about conference realignment is about the timeline of future announcements.
That’s not exactly true. The question I get asked the most concerns my intelligence and something about a “ fait accompli” statement I once made a long time ago. We best leave that topic alone.
But the question about when we may see the next round of moves is a close second.
Deadlines, both real and imagined, have come and gone for over a year now and the ACC keeps motoring along with all its really important parts still in place.
Why hasn’t the Big 10 moved? Why hasn’t Jim Delany put his “Delany Doctrine” into place? What’s the holdup?
Over the weekend I did some investigating into the matter to see what could be causing the delay. The consensus answer surprised me – the Big 10 just doesn’t feel any need to rush.
The Big 10 isn’t being lackadaisical, the multitude of factors that comprise the motivations and deterrents driving realignment are just not as time sensitive as we think. Nothing has to be settled before 2015 when the NCAA implements the playoff format and playoff shares become important.
Two years is a long time to wait for movement. Can we, as fans, endure two years of posturing and rumors of alliances and raids without going crazy?
The truth is that only Jim Delany knows the Big 10’s timeline for expansion. All we can do is try and understand the contributing factors affecting the timeline.
#1 Big 10 plans to expand to 18 – Michigan and Illinois still cool on FSU
The people I speak to around the Big 10 and SEC agree that UVA is signed, sealed and delivered and that Georgia Tech is likely the same.
There is much debate about #17 but I believe, again based on the conversations I have, that FSU is #17. FSU has the support of Ohio State and the time to convince Michigan and Illinois that the Seminoles will benefit the Big 10.
The only question, and I believe a contributing factor in the delay, is who is number 18? UNC is Delany’s choice for #18 but the Tarheels are slow-playing both the Big 10 and SEC.
I believe Jim Delany wants to announce the addition of the 4 schools at the same time, but is this enough to halt expansion until the Tarheels decide? No, but it is a factor.
#2 UNC wants time to save the ACC
UNC knows what everyone else does – the Big 10 is vastly superior to the SEC in two areas – academics and basketball. Everyone I speak to, including those in the SEC, believe that given a choice between both the B1G and the SEC that UNC picks the Big 10.
UNC is engaged in talks with both conferences but, according to my sources, has only begun the paperwork for the Big 10. I believe the Tarheels are stalling and using the delay to explore every possible way to increase ACC revenues to the point where ACC schools, including UVA and Georgia Tech, choose to stay.
The likelihood that the ACC can raise revenues to be within $10 million of the Big 10 or SEC in 2016 is farfetched in my opinion. Nothing I have seen or heard gives me reason to think that ESPN will go along with an ACC Network.
What about the Big 12 – ACC alliance? Nothing I see, read or hear gives me reason to think the alliance brings in more than $4 million for the schools featured in the made-for-TV matchups of the alliance.
UNC’s stall tactics are one reason for the delay but not the definitive factor.
The definitive factor is money.
#3 Everyone saves (except the ACC) money on the exit fee by waiting
Here is where the ACC’s lawsuit against Maryland comes into play – everyone saves money on the exit fee by waiting.
The ACC’s exit fee is currently $52 million. Maryland contends the exit fee is punitive and that the ACC violated its own by-laws in both the manner the fee was implemented and when it took effect.
If Maryland wins, and it is likely they will, the exit fee is unenforceable. That means the exit fee reverts back to $20 million.
It’s important to note here that if the fee is determined to be punitive the ACC must start from scratch to implement any raise and, according to ACC by-laws, any fee increase would not take affect until the beginning of the following academic year.
So waiting for the inevitable Maryland courtroom victory means that UVA, Georgia Tech and FSU save at least $32 million each.
The Big 10 saves many too. Assuming the Big 10 agrees to help each departing school with half of the exit fee the price tag for the Big 10 is $104 million. If the Big 10 waits until the Maryland lawsuit is settled that $104 million becomes $40 million.
If money is the driving force behind conference realignment then money is also the primary driving force behind any delay.
If that’s not enough for you then consider the money the schools save by waiting outside of the exit fee.
#4 Realized Revenues
The ACC is currently withholding Maryland’s ACC revenues against the $52 million exit fee the ACC claims the Terps owe.
UVA, Georgia Tech, FSU and whoever #18 is cannot afford to have two years ($38 million) of TV revenue withheld to satisfy the ACC’s exit fee.
By waiting for an outcome of the lawsuit the schools likely mitigate their losses from $38 million to $10 million (assuming help from the Big 10) and go from owing the ACC money to receiving revenue in both lame duck years.
#5 Big 10 cashes in in 2016
The Big 10’s TV contract is up for renewal in 2016. Expansion south adds TV sets and dollars – enough dollars to pay for adding 6 additional schools.
Here’s the important point – current Big 10 members will not take a cut in revenue and that’s why the Big 10 likely waits until 2016 to have UVA, GT, FSU and UNC join the ranks.
Summing it up
Money makes the world go round and money moves mountains. Money is the reason for conference realignment and money is the reason why everyone is content to wait until the Maryland lawsuit is settled.
The fact is that schools, especially those in states who have reduced funding for higher learning, cannot justify a dime more than is required to leave the ACC.
So be prepared to wait a little while longer.
I continue to hear that FSU has the votes needed for membership in the Big 10. Reports that FSU had been notified that the Big 10 was not interested in the Seminoles appear to have originated from the Big 10 office in Chicago and are denied by those at Ohio State
If UNC should choose to go with the SEC instead of the Big 10 then Missouri becomes the Big 10’s first choice for #18.
Boston College is still on the Big 10’s radar and likely to be invited to join the conference as #20 should Notre Dame accept an invitation to join the conference in 2016 as #19.
News has been hard to come by during the last week because most involved where at the NCAA basketball tournament.