Clemson Turned Down ESPN and the ACC

Clemson Turned Down ESPN and the ACC

We reported earlier this week that prior to filing litigation against the ACC, Clemson had been in contractual conversations with the conference. The topics and the scope of the conversations came out in discovery and in a court hearing in Mecklenburg County this week. The depth of the talks is up for debate, but one of the attention-grabbing topics was that Clemson turned down ESPN and the ACC and their request to move a game.

The Request

The conference and its partner network asked Clemson back in January if they would move the annual rivalry game with South Carolina from Saturday, November 30th to Friday the 29th. ESPN wanted to put the Clemson home game in prime time in the schools’ local time zone. But Clemson said no. There currently is no specific time locked in for the game on Saturday the 30th.

Discovery in the case reveals that representatives from Clemson and the ACC, as well as their legal teams, had talks covering a wide range of contractual issues in the early weeks of 2024. Attorneys for the ACC pointed out in court earlier this week that the Clemson people abruptly stopped responding to emails and phone calls in mid to late February.

That timing coincides with changes at the top of the legal team representing the school. Clemson then filed suit against the ACC on March 19th in Pickens County, South Carolina. The conference counter sued in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina days later.

The ACC’s Response

In declining the network’s request to move the game, Clemson officials did not provide a detailed explanation for the decision. ACC Senior Associate Commissioner, Michael Strickland expressed his disappointment in the decision in an email he wrote to Clemson Athletic Director Graham Neff. That email was part of the exhibits for the court, provided by the ACC Tuesday.

“As all ACC members know, it is incumbent upon the ACC and its institutions to work in good faith with ESPN on football scheduling issues. This cooperation maximizes the value of our relationship with our media partner and strengthens our collective future. Clemson’s decision not to do so in this instance is harmful toward that goal,” Strickland wrote.

The History

The Clemson-South Carolina game has been in prime time for three of the last six years. Two of those times were South Carolina home games. The game was not played in 2020 due to Covid-related schedule changes.

Designated times have been for only two of Clemson’s games thus far for 2024. The season opener against Georgia is at noon local time. The home game in week two against Appalachian State is in prime time at 8 pm.

ESPN has joined certain elements of the litigation with the ACC against Florida State and Clemson. The network has filed briefs, joining the conference, in trying to keep details of its contract with the ACC sealed, and/or redacted. ESPN contends it is necessary in order to maintain secrecy in its industry negotiations. Florida State has argued against those motions. Clemson has, for the most part, obliged.


Clemson Turned Down ESPN and the ACC
Photo courtesy: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports



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