ACC Announces Grant of Media Rights Agreement

The Atlantic Coast Conference announced Monday that its members had reached a grant of media rights agreement.

“Greensboro, N.C. – The Atlantic Coast Conference Council of Presidents announced today that each of the current and future 15-member institutions has signed a grant of media rights, effective immediately.

“This announcement further highlights the continued solidarity and commitment by our member institutions,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “The Council of Presidents has shown tremendous leadership in insuring the ACC is extremely well positioned with unlimited potential.”

“The ACC has long been a leader in intercollegiate athletics, both academically and athletically,” said the collective ACC Council of Presidents. “Collectively, we all agree the grant of rights further positions the ACC and its current and future member schools as one of the nation’s premier conferences.”

A tweet from the David Glenn Show twitter account was first to report the news. This agreement could lead to greater stability for the realignment picture around the nation, especially for the ACC.

Several outlets have since confirmed the report with their sources, including ESPN and CBS Sports.

In short, a grant of media rights agreement turns over television broadcast rights from schools to the conference.  Thus, if a school changes conferences after such an agreement, they forfeit any TV money for the length of the agreement. The ACC’s grant of media rights would reportedly last until 2026-27, which is the also the term of the conference’s television deal with ESPN.

A grant of media rights is considered more “foolproof” for preventing conference realignment than increased exit fees for two major reasons.  One, it places a higher cost to a school to change conferences.  As David Teel pointed out. a school leaving the ACC under this agreement could be leaving $300 million in TV rights on the table, considerably higher than the conference’s $50 million exit fee.

Furthermore, schools who have signed these agreements are much less attractive to conferences seeking to expand.  Without the incentive of television money, there is little reason to bring a member of the ACC into another conference, especially with television rights being a driving force behind the realignment cycle. The Big Ten, Pac 12, and Big 12 all have Grant of Rights agreements.

A grant of media rights requires unanimous agreement from all member schools, which is another display of the confidence and solidarity of ACC schools to move forward with the current membership.  Florida State and Maryland had both voted against an increased exit fee, which would indicate the Seminoles were still at least considering a change in scenery at the time.

The grant of media rights agreement includes Notre Dame, despite their recently-renewed television deal with NBC for football coverage.  NBC has held Notre Dame football television rights since 1991 and will do so until 2025 per the recent agreement.  Thus, the grant of media rights would only apply to the sports in which Notre Dame is an ACC member.

In order to surrender the leverage of 15 years of television money, there would presumably have to be a larger incentive for the schools.  For instance, a better television deal with the addition of Louisville and Notre Dame-sans-football and/or an ACC cable network could be in the works with the conference stabilized by the grand of media rights.  This will be something to watch as the situation develops further.

Also remaining to be seen will be what impact, if any, such an agreement would have on the suit between Maryland and the ACC in regards to the $50 million exit fee.  The Greensboro News and Record’s David Morrison reports there will be no change, per an ACC official.

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