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Syracuse Football: ACC could change how postseason revenue is split up

Syracuse football (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Syracuse football (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

This week, officials from the Atlantic Coast Conference and administrators from league members, including the ‘Cuse representing the interests of Syracuse football, are conducting their spring meetings in Amelia Island, Fla.

According to various media reports, ACC stakeholders are discussing a variety of things, and a hot-button topic is certainly how this conference can compete against the two giants in major collegiate athletics, the Big Ten Conference and the Southeastern Conference.

Amid conference realignment, the Big Ten is adding Southern California and UCLA from the Pac-12 Conference. The SEC has plucked Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12 Conference. The Big Ten and the SEC have lucrative TV contracts that will allow their members to generate tens of millions of dollars more annually than ACC teams.

As Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated noted in a recent article, the ACC is “handcuffed by an ESPN broadcasting contract and grant-of-rights that extends another 13 years.”

ACC administrators are discussing postseason revenue-distribution models that could impact Syracuse football.

So ACC administrators this week, according to reports, are discussing ways to keep the league relatively competitive with the Big Ten and the SEC as it pertains to the highly lucrative sport of college football.

Brandon Marcello, a national reporter with 247Sports, said in a tweet on Tuesday night that ACC administrators are discussing several options for a weighted revenue-distribution model based on postseason achievements, according to Florida State’s athletic director, Michael Alford.

Marcello’s tweet notes that Alford says a merit-based model “could lead to more than $10 million in additional yearly revenue for a successful program.”

ESPN’s David Hale and Andrea Adelson reported on Tuesday evening that ACC athletic directors left meetings on that day “feeling optimistic that schools would coalesce around a plan that would afford a larger share of postseason revenue – including from a soon-to-expand College Football Playoff – to the teams participating in those postseason games rather than dividing it equally among all members.”

In the ESPN article, Alford said there are scenarios in which an ACC member that makes the College Football Playoff “could add more than $10 million in revenue annually.”

The College Football Playoff, by the way, will expand from four teams to 12 squads beginning with the 2024-25 season.

Syracuse Orange football went 7-6 in the 2022 term and did make a bowl game. But is the ‘Cuse going to be a contender for the College Football Playoff? I don’t envision that.

Depending on what a new postseason revenue-distribution model may look like, could ACC heavyweights such as Clemson, Florida State and others stand to greatly benefit, while teams like Syracuse football see their postseason revenue drop? That remains to be seen, but if the Orange isn’t consistently making bowl games, I don’t see how that wouldn’t negatively impact the ‘Cuse.

These discussions among ACC members are focused on postseason revenue. Hale and Adelson wrote, “The new revenue distribution models would not impact TV revenue, which makes up about 75% of the ACC’s distribution …”

Brett McMurphy of Action Network and Dellenger recently reported that seven ACC schools – Clemson, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia and Virginia Tech – have met over the past few months, along with their lawyers, to determine “just how unbreakable” the grant-of-rights deal is.

Dellenger said, “Per the grant-of-rights, each ACC school gives ownership of its broadcasting rights to the league in a deal with ESPN that runs through 2036. If a school breaks the deal, the ACC will continue to own the TV rights of any of that school’s home games, according to the contract.”

Dellenger reported that ACC administrators have spent several months discussing the league’s revenue-distribution model. An interesting nugget from his piece:

"“Administrators have spent the last couple of months discussing this festering issue. It has divided a conference that is less like-minded than most leagues in the country: big football revenue-generators like Florida State, Clemson, Miami and even North Carolina grouped with the likes of Boston College, Syracuse and Wake Forest,” Dellenger writes."

Without question, Syracuse football isn’t anywhere close to being on the same level as Clemson, Florida State, Miami and others in the ACC – both in terms of the Orange’s on-field performances as well as the program’s brand perception on a national scale.

Given the grant-of-rights deal that lasts for 13 more years, that could make it difficult – legally and financially – for ACC members to bolt for other leagues. Plus, do the Big Ten and/or the SEC want to further expand?

If the answer, at least in the short term, is no, then it seems to me that the most financially beneficial thing for ACC teams to do is work something out regarding revenue distribution and stick together.

The ACC won’t be on par with the Big Ten and the SEC. But the ACC seems like it can be a solid No. 3 behind those two super conferences.

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