What will happen to ACC football in the midst of what looks like another round of realignment in college football? How about adding Notre Dame and Penn State?
College football seems on the cusp of another major realignment. How will the ACC respond to the reported power moves made by the SEC?
This past week it was reported Texas and Oklahoma were going to make a move to the SEC. This set off a chain of speculation across the college football world. Questions abound from what a new 16 team SEC would look like to what the remaining eight members of the Big 12 would do to is this only the beginning of super conferences?
The ACC certainly is not immune to this latest potential seismic shift in college football. Some have speculated the conference could be raided itself for teams. While possible, it seems unlikely with the ACC’s grant of media rights running through 2036. If a school left, their media rights would still remain with the ACC.
Despite a nice contract with ESPN and the ACC Network, the ACC remains at the bottom of the Power 5 in media rights revenue. In the last couple of seasons, Big Ten schools on average earned about $20-25 million more than ACC schools. The expansion would allow the ACC to renegotiate their contracts and needs to be seriously considered by the conference.
The first school that is a no-brainer to add is Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have been the forbidden crown jewel that some conferences have been trying to add for years. The Big Ten flirted with the Irish in the past but the school ultimately decided to keep its football independence.
In recent times Notre Dame is partially aligned with ACC football. The Irish would get to keep their independence but they do have five scheduled football games a year versus ACC football teams.
Last year during the pandemic Notre Dame was a member of the ACC for the odd season but it worked and the conference got two members into the College Football Playoff for the first time.
Also, the ACC media rights contract does state that if Notre Dame does join a conference before 2036, it must be the ACC.
It will be a hard sell to finally get Notre Dame to join a conference but what a coup it would be for new conference commissioner James Phillips. How much more of a coup would it be to pull in another big football program? This is where Penn State comes in.
ACC should target Penn State?
I can already hear the naysayers on this. No way would the Nittany Lions ever leave the Big Ten, the richest conference in today’s landscape. The 30-year marriage of Penn State and the Big Ten has had rocky moments but overall has been a success for both parties.
The keywords in the above paragraph are “today’s landscape”. If both Notre Dame and Penn State were to join the ACC, that’s another huge seismic shift. It would certainly give the ACC leverage to renegotiate their media deals. The money would likely increase significantly, putting the ACC in the upper tier of media rights.
While Penn State has built some rivalries with Big Ten members, their biggest long-time rivals are in the ACC. Playing rivals Pitt, Syracuse, and Boston College on the regular again is rather enticing.
Of course, playing Notre Dame and Miami would be fun along with adding new matchups with Virginia, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina.
A move like this would leave the Big Ten hanging. Adding a school from the remaining eight Big 12 schools would not carry the same weight as the Nittany Lions.
All of this is highly speculative and of course, is unlikely to happen. It is fun to formulate different scenarios with college football realignment. If the ACC could pull off not one but two major additions in Notre Dame and Penn State, they would likely leapfrog right behind the SEC in regards to money and power.