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Report: FSU, 6 Other ACC Schools Exploring 'How Unbreakable' Grant-of-Rights Deal Is

Joseph Zucker

The ACC could soon have a crisis on its hands.

The Action Network's Brett McMurphy reported Monday that Clemson, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia and Virginia Tech have had conversations with lawyers to explore "just how unbreakable" the ACC's grant-of-rights deal is.

Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger had earlier used that phrase without naming all the schools in a report that noted fissures emerging within the conference:

"A subset of seven schools in the 14-member conference has coalesced over what many of them describe as an untenable situation. Officials from the seven schools, led by Florida State and Clemson, have met a handful of times over the past several months, with their lawyers examining the grant-of-rights to determine just how unbreakable it is.
"Per the grant-of-rights, each ACC school gives ownership of its broadcasting rights to the league in a deal with ESPN that runs through 2036. If a school breaks the deal, the ACC will continue to own the TV rights of any of that school's home games, according to the contract."

There has never been an even playing field in major college sports. And thanks to the new television deals coming down the pike for the SEC and Big Ten, the gulf is widening. A new superconference era feels all but inevitable.

In the case of the ACC, the dollars and cents speak for themselves. Per Dellenger, its members schools could make $30 million per year less than their SEC and Big Ten peers by 2026.

No matter how much Clemson and the ACC's more historic powers would like to be elsewhere, the conventional wisdom was that the conference's grant-of-rights was basically a failsafe.

In 2016, the ACC signed a rights extension through the 2035-36 academic year. The conference may be sacrificing potential revenue, but it also might have an ironclad means of survival.

Dellenger wrote that "most attorneys" describe the grant-of-rights agreement as "airtight."

He added that one potential solution is for the ACC to renegotiate its revenue model so that the conference's most successful schools collect bigger shares of the pie.

The amount of money in the pot isn't going up, though, and when the Big 12 considered bending over backward to accommodate Oklahoma and Texas, it didn't stop them from bolting for the SEC.

When it comes to the conference realignment saga, nothing may be more important than the ACC's grant-of-rights deal.


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