Syracuse Orange: Top expert says the ACC 'officially running out of time' - not good

Clemson has joined FSU in legal battles against the ACC, and how that impacts the Syracuse Orange is something to monitor.
Clemson has joined FSU in legal battles against the ACC, and how that impacts the Syracuse Orange is something to monitor. / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

For the Syracuse Orange and its peers in the Atlantic Coast Conference, their league is a jumbled mess right now, in my humble opinion.

In recent days, Clemson has filed a lawsuit against the ACC, and the conference has issued its own countersuit. The ACC is also entrenched in a legal battle with Florida State.

It’s entirely possible that, in the future, other conference members could follow Florida State’s and Clemson’s lead and take legal action against the ACC as well.

At the center of this stuff is the ACC’s grant of rights, “which binds the league, schools and broadcast partners together until the ESPN deal expires in 2036,” as On3 college sports business and transfer portal reporter Pete Nakos wrote in a piece.

With that media-rights deal running for numerous more years, some ACC schools aren’t happy about that, particularly as collegiate athletics’ two heavyweights, the Big Ten Conference and the Southeastern Conference, have much more lucrative media-rights deals in place that provide bigger payouts to their league members.

If the ACC implodes, what will happen to the Syracuse Orange?

Now, heading into the 2024-25 sports calendar, the ACC has grown by three members with California and Stanford out of the Pac-12 Conference, as well as SMU from the American Athletic Conference.

So now the ACC (the All-Coast Conference, right?) has to sort out these legal skirmishes, while also possibly preparing for additional legal battles with other current members.

As that transpires, heading into the next college sports cycle, the Big Ten and the SEC are adding some big-time programs to their ranks, and one could argue that the Big 12 Conference’s expansion put it at No. 3 in the overall pecking order.

Nakos said, “If Florida State and Clemson ultimately win their legal battles, more institutions will file similar lawsuits to leave. ESPN also has the option next February to decline to opt-in into the final nine years of its TV contract with the ACC. … Some expect the Big Ten and SEC to compete over the pool of programs available in the next wave of conference realignment. But that would probably lessen the current TV payouts for schools. For years, many stakeholders have discussed a possible college football super league. Could the collapse of the ACC trigger the move? Possible.”

Without question, I assume the Big Ten, the SEC and maybe the Big 12 would take a look at potentially adding a Clemson or a Florida State, while also considering other ACC schools that want to depart.

But what about the Syracuse Orange? I candidly have no idea, but I’m sure SU Athletics leaders will do whatever they can to ensure the future financial stability of the ‘Cuse.

This is merely my opinion, but I don’t see the SEC wanting Syracuse. The same goes for the Big 12. I’d love to see the ‘Cuse back in the Big East Conference, but with football driving the ship, that will not happen.

What about the Big Ten? Perhaps. Although that league already has Rutgers as a member, and both the Scarlet Knights and the Syracuse Orange command attention in the coveted New York metropolitan area.

Would the Big Ten view the ‘Cuse has having too much overlap, so to speak, with Rutgers to consider SU as a future member? We’ll have to see.

One thing I will add here is that while collegiate athletics is a big business, it does sicken me where the landscape is today. Yes, NIL, the transfer portal, recent waves of conference realignment, the future of the NCAA, the possibility of making student-athletes “employees,” and other factors have brought us to where we are today.

Yet all these lawsuits, to me, are a sign of the times, but also a sad indication of the times. With Clemson now involved in a legal fight with the ACC, Nakos wrote that it “was a sure sign that the 70-year-old ACC is officially on the clock.”

And I just hope that whatever is to become of the ACC in the future, our beloved Syracuse Orange has a viable conference home down the line, wherever that may be.

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