While all eyes have been on the Pac-12 and their impending media deal, there are looming discussions coming around the ACC’s media deal and how its revenue gets distributed that could end up having another seismic impact on the state of college athletics.
Back in February, Florida State athletic director Michael Alford fired a warning shot across the bow of ACC commissioner Jim Phillips’ desk when he told the school’s board of trustees that “something has to change” when it came to the impending revenue gap between their league and the SEC and Big Ten.
When the SEC and Big Ten’s latest media deals kick in, the ACC schools will be at least $30 million per year behind them (possibly even more). And it doesn’t help that the ACC is currently locked into its present deal with ESPN through 2036, though all conference schools are tied together with a grand of rights through the contract.
However, if FSU can’t get out of the current media rights deal, they’re going to at least demand that the ACC changes the distribution model to reflect how they see their importance in the conference.
“Something has to change because we cannot compete nationally being $30 million behind every year,” Alford told ESPN in February. “It’s not one year. We’re talking about $30 million compounded year after year.”
We may start to get a sense of what Alford has in mind after Monday when the ACC’s annual spring meetings take place.
Speaking with FSU outlet Warchant last week, Alford said the school will continue to push Phillips and other schools for an uneven revenue-sharing model that compensates schools like FSU and Clemson for their football prowess on the field and in the TV ratings.
“I make no bones about it that we’re the top brand in the conference,” Alford said. “And when you look at how they measure media contracts, with households, viewership, and championships, we’re driving that viewership for our conference at a high rate.
“There are a couple schools that are really driving that media contract.”
It’s not exactly news that Florida State is unhappy with the ACC’s television contracts as they’ve teased conference realignment in recent years despite its heavy price tag. However, given that SEC schools are about to start pocketing around $72 million per year and Big Ten schools can expect around $80 million per year once their new deals begin, the folks in Tallahassee are looking around and wondering how they’ll be able to keep pace with the likes of neighbors like Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, and Florida if something doesn’t change fast.
“I compliment Jim Phillips and his staff for everything they’re trying to do,” Alford told Warchant. “They understand what’s coming. I’ve made it abundantly clear that there’s a $30 million gap that’s starting next season. And that can’t go on for years, because then you just can’t catch up.”
While the Seminoles aren’t the powerhouse they used to be, they’re coming off a 10-3 campaign under coach Mike Norvell and look likely to regain some of their previous form. Meanwhile, while Clemson has taken a slight step back from being a perennial title contender as well, they remain the powerhouse of the league. Other schools like Miami, North Carolina, Duke, Pitt, and Louisville, amongst others, can make claims of their own about their value to the ACC against the mean, too.
Whatever happens, it certainly doesn’t sound like Alford is interested in keeping the status quo for much longer, especially as everyone else seems to get richer around him.
“If you look at the revenue projections, they should have a better agreement than we have by going out to market,” Alford said of UCF, which is joining the Big 12, whose latest media right deal is up for renegotiation after the 2030-31 season. “That means there’s going to be another school in the state that’s going to have a better agreement than Miami and us. And that’s just not acceptable to us.”