SMU realignment SMU football players take the field to jetting flames at the north end of Ford Stadium in Dallas. Sept 4 2021 Smu Mustangs Flames

SMU made waves this off-season with its move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, as realignment swung open the doors on college sports again. The Mustangs and conference realignment might not have been on everyone’s minds off the bat, But in the college football world, where everything changes rapidly, SMU was just next in line to be boosted up. It’s quite the feat for the university and its athletics program. Nearly forty years ago, the football program was among the best in the country. But pay-for-play scandals and slush funds reaching the former Governor of Texas led to the NCAA hitting them with the death penalty. Despite being plagued for decades, the program now is in a Power 5 conference.

So how did all that shake out? Yahoo! Sports’ Ross Dellenger detailed the Mustangs’ realignment move to the ACC in fascinating detail. It hemmed over everything, especially the differences in revenue distribution between the Power 5 and the Group of 5. And SMU, in joining the ACC, made an audacious concession. The Mustangs will forgo any ACC television revenue for its first nine years in the conference according to the terms of the agreement.

SMU booster David Miller is described as the point person on the school’s bid to join a Power 5 conference. Included in the report is the first recognition that SMU wanted to do so no matter the price.

All of this is why Miller figuratively shrugged at Phillips’ question on that April morning in the downtown Charlotte Westin.

How, if SMU were to take such a reduced share of television money, would they compete?

Miller smiled from across the table.

“It’s a couple hundred million dollars,” Miller said. “I’m not losing sleep over it.”

However, they won’t be going home completely empty-handed.

While SMU will not receive the largest portion of the distribution — TV money — the Mustangs get everything else. Administrators expect to receive about 25% of an ACC distribution share, or roughly $10-12 million annually in cash from NCAA tournament, bowl games, the CFP and the conference’s new incentive-success pool.

That still leaves a gap of $30 million annually between the Mustangs and the original 14 ACC programs — a whopping difference that could impact resources such as coaching salaries, recruiting budgets, staff size, etc.

Dellenger also noted that because of this, the most prominent SMU boosters and figureheads could get involved and make them an even more attractive destination. While it’s probably unlikely that they’d return to that same level of arrogance and free-spending as they did in the 80s, they would absolutely be boosted, which is what makes everything so attractive to all these decision-makers. The other side of the coin, of course, is that conference realignment has made great strides to make the sport appear more complex than it actually is, and the shift toward superconferences has been rough to watch.

As things came together, Dellenger wrote, SMU’s offer was made just at the right place at the right time. The ACC desired more than they were getting, said SMU board chair David Miller.

“It was really about their dissatisfaction with the formula around the success-initiative,” he said. “They wanted more.”

Miller had reportedly talked to North Carolina State, an important ‘swing’ vote to get them in the ACC, Dellenger said. And evidently, they did more than enough to make it work.

The main bullet point here is clear: Money makes the world go ’round. SMU made the most of its realignment opportunity. It came around at the right place and the right time for the ACC, who now sees their conference swell up to join the rest of them.

Whether or not all of this does pay dividends is yet to be entirely seen.

[Yahoo! Sports]

About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022