Echoing their athletic directors and commissioner, the ACC’s 15 presidents Wednesday endorsed a “success initiative” that will alter the conference’s decades-old policy of equal revenue shares.
The announcement comes one week after the league’s annual spring meetings, where the ACC’s financial challenges prompted occasionally contentious debate among ADs.
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No formulas have been settled, but the model will reward the league’s top performers in football and men’s basketball with a greater share of those monies. The change takes effect in 2024-25, the timing intentional to coincide with additional revenue from the expanded College Football Playoff.
The ACC’s television rights from ESPN, which in 2021-22 accounted for 72% of conference revenue, will continue to be divided equally among the 14 full-time members.
“The ACC Board of Directors continues to be committed to exploring all potential opportunities that will result in additional revenues and resources for the conference,” board chairman and Duke president Vincent Price said in a statement. “Today’s decision provides a path to reward athletic success while also distributing additional revenue to the full membership.”
Also in a statement, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips applauded the board’s “continued commitment to work collectively. As we’ve communicated consistently, we remain dedicated to exploring all options to enhance support for our member institutions and their student-athletes.”
Changing the league’s revenue sharing structure requires consent of at least 10 presidents, and a six-member presidential subcommittee chaired by Virginia’s Jim Ryan and including Virginia Tech’s Tim Sands has been studying the matter. Others on the subcommittee: Florida State’s Rich McCullough, Syracuse’s Kent Syverud, Clemson’s Jim Clements and Wake Forest’s Susan Wente.
FSU and Clemson, the only ACC programs to appear in the College Football Playoff, have been the most public supporters of the success initiative.
“We understand the urgency, and our CEOs understand the urgency to take a look at this,” Seminoles AD Michael Alford said last Tuesday at the spring meetings.
Colleagues such as Virginia Tech’s Whit Babcock, N.C. State’s Boo Corrigan and Miami’s Dan Radakovich also voiced support last week, and in an online newsletter Tuesday, Wake Forest’s John Currie said the Deacons are on board.
Radakovich said rewarding football and men’s basketball performance is even more imperative as schools navigate the ever-changing landscape of name, image and likeness (NIL) compensation for college athletes.
“I think everybody knows where we are,” Radakovich, a former AD at Clemson and Georgia Tech, said of the economic climate. “It’s not a bad thing (to change). It’s OK to do those kinds of things.”
Despite all-time highs in revenue and per-school distributions, the ACC lags well behind the Big Ten and SEC in the financial arms race. Moreover, that gap figures to widen as the Big Ten and SEC start new television contracts that reflect their impending expansions — Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, Southern California and UCLA to the Big Ten.
The ACC’s TV deal with ESPN extends until 2036, as does the conference’s grant of media rights. That document confers each school’s television revenue to the ACC for the duration, in theory preventing moves to other leagues.
“We just have to look at revenue differently,” Phillips said at the spring meetings. “... Our schools have done a great job with the resources they’ve been given.”
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