Syracuse Orange: West-coast expansion for ACC picking up steam again

Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

The possibility of the Syracuse Orange and its Atlantic Coast Conference peers seeing their membership ranks expand appears to be gaining traction again, multiple national media outlets are reporting.

ACC leaders, lately, have held exploratory discussions about the potential of adding Pac-12 Conference members California and Stanford, as well as SMU, a Dallas-based school from the American Athletic Conference.

Around two weeks ago, news surfaced that four ACC schools weren’t in favor of the conference’s possible west-coast expansion, with the league needing 12 of its 15 members to support such a move for it to occur.

However, on Wednesday, reports stated that a potential west-coast expansion by the ACC now isn’t out of the question. ESPN’s Pete Thamel said via Twitter (I mean “X”) that ACC leaders are again giving “serious consideration” to possibly adding Cal, Stanford and SMU.

The Syracuse Orange could welcome new ACC members.

Thamel reported, via X and also later on in a full article, that several ACC presidents met on Wednesday morning to “discuss financial models that would come with the additions.” I haven’t been able to determine one way or another if Syracuse Orange leadership was present at this particular meeting.

Per reports, the four ACC schools that have not been in support of this west-coast expansion are Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina and N.C. State. It’s unclear to me if the Syracuse Orange is adamantly in favor of the ACC adding these three schools, or whether the ‘Cuse is more neutral in these discussions.

Andrea Adelson of ESPN wrote in part on X, “The key here has always been the financials for the ‘no’ schools. If the $ shows it can help close the gap with the SEC/Big Ten, this will likely happen.”

Various national reports suggest that the financial models being discussed would include big concessions from Cal, Stanford and SMU. More meetings of ACC leaders are likely to happen in the coming days, with Thamel saying that a timeline to make a decision is roughly one week.

"More from Thamel: “There’s expected to be a pool of money created from these additions, and the ACC presidents are discussing how the money would be split. The mechanics of that are still to be worked out, including a performance pool for success initiatives. … The concessions expected from SMU include a willingness to take no broadcast media revenue for the first seven years they are in the league. Stanford and Cal would both receive the same share, which will both be reduced but different in form than SMU’s concessions.”"

The latest recent round of conference realignment has decimated the Pac-12. College football and television contracts rule the roost, and in that regard, the Big Ten Conference and the Southeastern Conference are the dominant players. The Big 12 Conference has gotten bigger, and the ACC is trying to fend off the Big 12 as the No. 3 league behind the Big Ten and the SEC.

From a geographic standpoint, the ACC adding Cal, Stanford and SMU makes no sense, but the same can be said about many of the latest developments in conference realignment. Heck, I still wish the Syracuse Orange was in the Big East Conference, but that presents a major issue for the ‘Cuse football program.

Stanford provides the San Francisco media market, while SMU is in Dallas, one of the largest metropolitan areas across the country. Stanford and Cal are elite academic institutions, and both are excellent in Olympic sports, particularly Stanford.

The ACC has a media rights deal with ESPN that runs through 2036 (and resulted in the launch of the ACC Network a couple of years ago), making it difficult (and, frankly, financially silly) for current members to bolt for other leagues.

Florida State, among others, has called for the ACC to change its revenue distribution model, although the conference earlier this year did give the green light on postseason revenue distribution that rewards league schools for having success in the College Football Playoff and the NCAA Tournament in basketball.

Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic brought up some interesting points on X. She says, as others have reported as well, that SMU is willing to not take any media rights revenue for a duration of time, with Cal and Stanford getting a reduced share.

But, Auerbach says, ESPN would still end up paying a “full share for each additional member,” thus making a pool of new money available. So, she says in essence, what is the excess money used for? There would be new travel expenses for existing ACC schools, but this money also could “reward on-field success, etc. Some pushing and hoping for more $ for those who bring most value/eyeballs,” according to Auerbach.

This is a fluid situation that I’ll continue to monitor. If I had to guess, given the concessions offered up by Cal, Stanford and SMU, I think that they will ultimately get invites to the ACC. Bigger isn’t always necessarily better, but since the Big 12 has gotten bigger, the ACC likely should, too.

Next. Syracuse Football: Projecting the Orange’s record during the 2023 season. dark