This year’s spring meetings for the Atlantic Coast Conference have produced little insight as to what may lie ahead for the ACC, due to a strict adherence to what amounts to a “gag order” handed down by conference commissioner John Swofford.
What we know for sure is that a two-hour meeting on television – the financial bread and butter of major college sports – turned into a three-hour meeting according to Andrew Carter of the Charlotte News & Observer. Swofford, the conference’s athletic directors, and the conference’s TV committee were all in on the meeting that kept the conference’s football coaches waiting in the hall for an hour.
ACC Spring Meetings Produce more Questions than Answers
Like the Big 12 and Pac-12, the ACC’s television revenue is dwarfed by that of the Big 10 and SEC. Like the Big 12, the ACC has no dedicated, shared conference network. Similarly to the Big 12 and Pac-12 again, the current contract with ESPN ties the ACC’s hands to a great extent when talking about forming an ACC Network. Until the broadcast deal runs out in 2027, ESPN would be involved and have to green-light the potential project every step of the way.
There should be concern in the ACC about whether or not the conference can afford to wait 11 years to form an ACC Network, however. As the Big 10 and SEC get ever richer, competing with them on fan experience, facilities and satellite camps will become more costly. If the Big 12 and/or Pac-12 should figure out methods to gain ground on the Big 10 and SEC, that would put the ACC even more at the back of the line for financial windfalls like hosting regional and national NCAA events.
So what is the ACC doing about this? The short answer is we don’t know. None of the people who were in on that three-hour meeting have given even a hint as to what was discussed, instead referring everyone who asks to Swofford. Swofford is scheduled to address the media as the meetings conclude on Thursday. It’s hard to expect earth-shattering news, however.
Even if the ACC’s movers and shakers have decided that the time to create an ACC Network is yesterday, they would still have to sell ESPN on their rationale. ESPN, already hemorrhaging revenue due to subscription losses, will probably be timid at best about letting the ACC pull some of its content away.
There had to be something of real substance going on for the meeting to spill over an hour, however. What that is, we might not know for a long time. There’s little reason to expect Swofford to give anything but the same answers he has already given to questions about an ACC Network. Perhaps closed-door conversations with ESPN have already happened, and some progress had been made. Perhaps a strategy of how to go about creating the network was being discussed. At this point, there are a myriad of possibilities with one thing in common; they are all speculation.
The only thing we know for sure right now is that there’s nothing we know for sure.