We're on the backside of the worst time of the year folks and that means we're just several weeks away from preview magazines and less than four months until we're in the "A" watching UNC-LSU. More importantly, since it is the little things that count we're just a month away from the Chick-fil-A tickets being delivered to our doorstep via the old Orange Bowl sponsor. In honor of such I present you with this awesomeness before we get into the ACC's most important move since the league decided to expand in 2003 aka the year I graduated high school.
Now entering the 2010 season the ACC is due to pull in a approximately $5.6 million per school through its TV contract with Raycom and ESPN. Compare that to the Big Ten's estimated $22 million per school or the SEC's $17 million per school and it is pretty clear that the league has got to make some major moves when it comes to their TV deal. Sitting at less than a third of what the two big boys make has league not only at a disadvantage financially but, like the Big East, vulnerable to raiding by a possibly expanding SEC.
A few weeks ago we hit on how the Pac 10, SEC and ACC could be proactive in expansion in order to stave off raiding and grabbing scraps after the Big Ten pillages the Big East in the coming months. For the ACC there is a more pressing need; getting more cash in their next television contract. With the TV contract expiring at the close of the 2010-11 seasons the ACC is now down at Fernandina Beach, FL having the league meetings and working to finalize the television deal. The commissioner John Swofford is the point man in this deal and must pull out a winner for the league to get closer to the upper echelons of college football. During our chat with Associate Commissioner Michael Kelly he expressed the importance of this next deal and here at In The Bleachers we know all to well that this deal can make or break the ACC's push to getting more national recognition.
Read more to see why this is the ACC's most crucial move in the last seven years.
The first and most obvious reason is to increase member revenue. All things start with money in the college football world and as our good buddies over at Tomahawk Nation show how important the cash part of the equation is in a winning formula. Currently the ACC has ZERO teams ranked in the top 20 in revenue while the SEC (7) and the Big Ten (6) dominate the list. The league makes its debut at 23 with the Duke Blue Devils pulling in $67.8 million or just over half what the leader, Texas, rakes in.
As a league the schools are scattered around from 23 (Duke) to 60 (Wake Forest) with around $27 million separating the top from the bottom. No school is too outstanding but no school is too far down the track, in fact, with Wake at 60th the league places every team in the upper half of the college football world but no team anywhere near the top 15%.
For the sake of the league's schools this deal must raise their earnings potential. That means allowing them to compete with the massive assistant salaries the SEC has offered as of late. The league must not only keep head coaching salaries competitive but they must maintain an ability to do battle with the ever rising assistant number or risk losing all continuity.
On top of this is the obvious answer of scraping more off the top is always nice. Texas, Florida and their ilk pull in millions of dollars, even after they finance the rest of their Olympic sports. That revenue is what we like to call profit and it goes straight into the universities pocket, simple enough.
Another reason this television deal is paramount is increasing the league's footprint nationally. Outside of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland the ACC is secondary in their member states. In Boston the league plays second and third chair to Red Sox, Patriots and at times the Celtics. In Georgia the Dawgs come first with the Yellow Jackets fighting for second place. South Carolina is a closer split as Clemson and South Carolina do battle but the more populated region, Columbia, gives the SEC the nod. Lastly, in Florida it is Gator country with Florida State and Miami falling in line behind them.
This new tv contract must push the league out into the national conscious much like the SEC's deal now has them moved to the forefront of the country's mind. While the ACC cannot expect the total exposure that ESPN now gives their southern brothers but they do need to gain the spotlight with negotiated national television appearances. That means keeping the Thursday night contests that have drawn well and grabbing consistent Saturday night contests on the WWL.
There have been rumors about Fox Sports and NFL Network deals being bandied about but in the end remaining on ESPN is important. They're the "masters of the college football universe" right now and we've seen how both the Big XII and Pac 10 have seemed to become after thoughts with big games on Fox Sports Net. Keep the product in front of people's eyes and most importantly in front of recruits.
The bottom line for the ACC is to protect itself; gaining revenue and expanding the national footprint are the two most clear cut methods of shielding themselves from a possible SEC pillaging. There's been plenty of speculation from folks about FSU, Clemson, Georgia Tech and/or Virginia Tech heading to the SEC if asked and the best way for the ACC to stop this talk is to become more competitive with their television money.
What Constitutes Success?
The first and most obvious answer is increasing revenue. The number is the mystery? No more $17 million per school per year deals are going down, especially not with the struggling nature of the ACC football product and the economy working in concert to limit the possibilities. However, coming close to doubling the $5.6 million would be a great start for the conference. Moving close to half the Big Ten network numbers and within $6 million of the SEC would give the league a stronger foothold in the marketplace and put them well ahead of the Big XII, Pac 10 and, the apparently doomed, Big East.
Next job is getting the ESPN exposure and keeping Raycom. The local tv network has been a part of the ACC for decades and is a stalwart in this neck of the woods. Raycom gives the league that nostalgic feel that purists are looking for while ESPN offers the exposure that the league so desperately needs.
The Big Dream
This has been bandied about only in the dark shadows, the blogosphere and by those of use who are kings of wishful thinking but the idea of a Pac 10-ACC network partnership is one that really has intrigued me. It sounds as though the Big XII and Pac 10 are already in serious talks with this very idea with the goal of securing their financial future and locking down all markets west of Louisiana. The idea of the Pac10-ACC alliance has intrigued me because of the possibility not just in football but also in the other sports that people apparently seem to care about.
The possibility of having football kickoffs from 12pm Eastern until 11pm Eastern on their own network was the first thing about this idea that made me salivate. Add in the idea of scheduling Pac 10 and ACC out of conference match ups and the football side has some serious legs. On the basketball side the leagues' would have UCLA, UNC, Duke and Arizona to boast. Toss in baseball and not to mention the conferences are two of the strongest Olympic sports leagues and there's plenty of compelling programming to put out there.
While the Pac 10-ACC alliance is a pipe dream the fact is the ACC must do something to safeguard their product; sitting and waiting as many folks on the basketball side are want to do will leave the league in a precarious position. Step on is upping the television contract to have a shot at hanging on to schools and step two is having a plan; either an aggressive expansion move to act instead of react OR a contingency plan for when the Big Ten grabs the best of the Big East.