May 24, 2016 Louisville, KY. (Analyzed Sports)
The ACC’s lack of TV Deal Hurts its Brand
At the beginning of conference realignment the SEC, Pac 12 and Big Ten made major moves to secure their spot as a Power 5 conference. The Big 12 lost two teams but the conference’s power in college sports prevailed and they withstood the frenzy of colleges moving conferences. This left the Big East and the Atlantic Coast Conference fighting for survival. On July 1, 2013 the non-football playing schools (known as the Catholic 7) formed a non-football playing conference that retains the Big East Conference name.
The remaining football playing members joined with schools from other conferences and the debut of the American Athletic Conference was upon us. The American Athletic Conference is the legal successor of the old Big East; it retains the old Big East’s structure and league’s automatic berth in the Bowl Championship Series.
With the addition of Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame and Louisville, the ACC now turns its attention to the mega TV deals that the Pac 12, Big Ten and SEC have. During the league the ACC network was one of the top ideas on agenda.
“I know that you have a job to do,” John Swofford ACC commissioner said to reporters. “And I respect that and I know you’re tired of hearing me consistently say the same old sound bites in regard to this particular subject. So I thought maybe you’d just want to pull up your previous tweets and stories and do a little pasting and save us some time on comments about an ACC channel. I’m kidding, sort of. No, I don’t really have anything to add to that.”
The ACC desperately needs one. The league’s athletic directors aren’t blind to the fact. They’re around $200 million behind the SEC in total revenue, and much of that is due to the difference in TV money.
For years, ACC coaches could only watch as their counterpart’s cashed paychecks that grew bigger after every championship and winning season. But not anymore, four ACC coaches are now in the $4 million club. Clemson’s coach Dabo Swinney recently has joined, more than quadrupling the $800,000 salary he got when he was first hired in 2008. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino got a raise to over $4 million along with Jimbo Fisher and Miami coach Mark Richt. He already was making $4 million at Georgia, in a conference that set a benchmark nobody else has been able to reach.
As the ACC is evolving into a top tier conference it must follow in the steps of the more powerful conferences. The ACC may have entered the game at the wrong time. ESPN has been going through major changes. The network isn’t as financially sound as it used to be as there has been numerous cuts made over the last year. Loss of subscribers to cable offerings is also hurting ESPN. There will come a point when a wider gap will be extremely noticeable when it comes to facilities and competitive salaries for coaches. The future of this league is at stake here. In sports it’s all about the money.