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ACC votes to extend invitations to Stanford, California and SMU, conference pushing to 18 teams

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlantic Coast Conference is becoming the latest Power 5 conference to expand, reportedly inviting Stanford, SMU and the University of California, Berkeley to join the ACC in 2024.

Following the disintegration of the Pac-12 conference, only four schools remained. Stanford and California were being recruited by multiple Power 5 conferences, while Washington State and Oregon State have drawn interest from the Mountain West Conference.

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However, several hurdles stood in the way of the Stanford Cardinal, California Golden Bears and SMU Mustangs from joining the ACC. Among them were opposition from university presidents within the conference and uncertainty regarding the financial model and revenue for the new-look conference. Now, everything has been settled.

According to ESPN’s Pete Thamel, presidents and chancellors for the Atlantic Coast Conference have voted to offer invitations to Stanford, California and Southern Methodist University to join the conference in 2024. If the offers are expected, it would become an 18-team league.

The conference previously didn’t have the votes to offer invitations. However, per Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic, North Carolina State University switched its vote, making it 12-3 in favor of Cal, SMU and Stanford receiving invitations.

The decision comes after months of negotiations led by commissioner Jim Phillips, who has been leading the effort to bring Stanford, Cal and SMU into the conference. With NC State switching its vote, Phillips had the support he needed to formally invite the three new schools.

The three schools that opposed the invitations were Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina. On Thursday, UNC’s board of trustees issued a statement objecting to the new conference additions. However, they were outvoted and all three schools being invited are expected to accept.

Financial impact of ACC expansion

NCAA Football: Western Carolina at North Carolina
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

As with the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma joining the Southeastern Conference and both the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins joining the Big Ten, the latest instance of conference alignment comes down to revenue.

Ross Dellenger of Yahoo Sports previously reported some of the financial details of the ACC expansion. Among them, Stanford and Cal reportedly agreed to take around 30 percent of the conference’s revenue distribution bringing in 2024, less than they receive in the Pac-12.

However, the rationale for that decision is driven by the money on the table. Even before a majority of its teams left the conference, the Pac-12 faced significant uncertainty on television which significantly jeopardized its long-term revenue.

By bringing Stanford and Cal into the ACC, the ACC is estimated to earn about $72 million in new money from expansion shares. In addition, future TV rights deals are expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars more now for networks because of the new 18-team conference that reaches across the United States.

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While SMU is being welcomed into the conference, it will come at a hefty initial cost. Auerbach also reported that the Mustangs must forego receiving any ACC television revenue for the first nine years in the conference. As a result, SMU wouldn’t receive its first conference TV revenue until 2023.

The ACC’s annual revenue still won’t approach what conferences like the Big Ten and SEC are pulling in, but it firmly establishes it as the third-biggest conference in college football and the financial windfall will have a massive positive influence on the schools moving forward.

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