Pac-12, the US college sports conference, has been left with only two members after decisions by Stanford University and the University of California-Berkeley to join rivals the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 2024.
The ACC will now have 18 members with the addition of the American Athletic Conference’s (AAC) Southern Methodist University (SMU). All three will begin competing in the ACC from the start of the 2024-25 academic year.
The ACC's American football membership, meanwhile, will stand at 17 schools. The University of Notre Dame has a partnership with the ACC for other sports while remaining independent in American football.
ACC commissioner Jim Philips said: “We are thrilled to welcome three world-class institutions to the ACC, and we look forward to having them compete as part of our amazing league.
“Throughout the evaluation process, the ACC board of directors, led by [University of Virginia] President [James] Ryan, was deliberate in prioritizing the best possible athletic and academic experience for our student-athletes and in ensuring that the three universities would strengthen the league in all possible ways.
“California-Berkeley, SMU, and Stanford will be terrific members of the ACC and we are proud to welcome their student-athletes, coaches, staff and entire campus community, alumni, and fans.”
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Stanford and California are the fifth and sixth Pac-12 teams to join the ACC for 2024, following the universities of Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, and Colorado announcing their departure. It leaves Pac-12 with just two remaining members – Oregon State University and Washington State University.
The defections have been driven by American football and the money that it generates. The Big 12 has a $2 billion deal with national network Fox and international sports broadcaster ESPN in place through 2036. The ACC’s 14 current members are expected to receive about $36 million through the deal.
However, under the terms of ESPN’s contract, the network must pay the ACC $24 million annually for each new team added. Under the terms of entry, Stanford and California will receive reduced TV revenue shares over the first seven years in the ACC, while SMU will receive no TV money for the first nine years.
In a statement, the University of California-Berkeley said: “The university will receive a full share of all revenues, including media revenue while contributing back a portion of its media revenue to support and strengthen the conference and its current member institutions.”
The deals have been put in place to quell dissent from current ACC members over reducing their share of TV revenue money after three schools – Clemson University, Florida State University, and the University of North Carolina – voted against the additions. However, the league’s presidents reached the required 12 out of 15 votes to expand the ACC’s football membership to 17 schools.
The shortfall will reportedly be covered by each school’s ‘boosters’ – outside donors of the sports teams, who see the move as beneficial in the long run.
Fellow league the Big Ten, which poached the universities of Southern California, California- Los Angeles, Oregon, and Washington from the Pac-12, meanwhile, has a seven-year, $7 billion media rights deal with multiple networks that sees its schools receive around $55 million.
The exodus marks the inevitable end of Pac-12 with the remaining two teams looking to join other conferences including the Mountain West Conference.
After announcing the departure of Oregon and Washington last month, Pac-12 said: “Today’s news is incredibly disappointing for student-athletes, fans, alumni, and staff of the Pac-12 who cherish the over 100-year history, tradition, and rivalries of the Conference of Champions.
“We remain focused on securing the best possible future for each of our member universities.”
Before the latest round of defections, Pac-12 was reportedly mulling a potential media rights deal with tech giant Apple. The Pac-12 has been negotiating its next set of media rights deals since last July when it was authorized to begin discussions earlier than planned.
However, the league’s best offer was $20 million annually per school (before incentives), while Big 12 teams are set to earn $31.7 million annually. It was also reported the deal did not satisfy distribution expectations with the Apple deal taking a primarily subscription-based approach.
The 2023 NCAA Division regular season started on August 26 and ends on December 9.