It appears the final chess move has been played in the battle over whether college realignment would continue until there were four conferences of four divisions each for 64 teams on the inside. The ACC has virtually assured that 64 teams will not control all of the BCS and potentially even March Madness revenue–and assured that the Big Ten will not look like what is depicted in this table in a couple of years.
|East (could have been)||West (could have been)|
|Duke (from ACC)||Illinois|
|Maryland||Indiana (from East)|
|UNC (from ACC)||Wisconsin|
The ACC presidents approved a grant of their media rights through 2026-27 to the conference, ensuring that no team will leave–because if a team left, their $20 million a year or so in TV rights would go to the conference. Without it, the possibility still loomed that the Big Ten could add UNC and Duke to their new Eastern Division, move Purdue to the Western Division with their rival Indiana, and create the first of what would probably eventually be four 16-team conferences.
Such an arrangement would have likely led to the Pac-12 and SEC following suite, with the Big 12 and ACC battling it out to see who could survive as the fourth conference. This arrangement would have also created the possibility of each conference having four divisions, with in essence 16 divisional winners forming a BCS playoff and freezing out every other team. The segmenting of schools into 64 BCS schools and everyone else also raised fears among smaller Division 1 basketball schools who can at least count on a share of their conferences appearance the the $1 billion (in advertising revenue) NCAA tournament.
However, with the ACC schools joining those from the Big Ten, Pac 12 and Big 12 in turning over their rights, and the SEC not even needing such a deal as no team would leave it, those conferences are basically guaranteed to be in place for a decade.
The one football fatality was the Big East, but they have carved a nitch with their remaining basketball-only schools and the addition of Butler, Xavier and Creighton, as the only conference where schools can get $5 million a year for TV without having to pay for a football program. The five BCS schools, Big East, Atlantic 10 and Mountain West have been the top eight basketball conferences at www.kenpom.com for four years running, creating a very ordered FIVE big conferences every football season and EIGHT big conferences every basketball season.
While regretting the rivalries gone by, and still open to the possibility that the three basketball conferences could lose or trade members, in general the ACC move was a huge win for sports fans who can start to lock in on rivalries that could last a decade or more.
For details on the deal, click here for the ESPN story.