Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire: Collegiate Edition


Divorce is never a fun topic.  Some of the first thoughts that may come to mind are: difficult, hurtful and for some, heartbreaking.  Whereas, the first adjective that pops in to my mind is expensive.  No, I’m not talking just sort of expensive; I’m talking millions of dollars expensive.  This is essentially what has become of modern conference alignment in collegiate sports.  Shame on you for sitting there thinking I had any intention of talking about our nation’s marital status and the greater than 50% divorce rate that we have become accustomed to.

As we sit here and ask ourselves, what happened to the good old days when conferences were determined by geographical location and an institutions ability to sponsor a pre-determined number of sports for men and women?  We are reminded that collegiate athletics have become less about the experience and instead shifted the focus toward monetary results.  If you think about it, collegiate conferences, like marriage, were about commitment and supporting one another in an effort to make the union stronger.  Now we look at the so-called transition toward “Super Conferences” and we’re stuck with what feels more like a dating game driven by money instead of loyalty.

This lack of commitment is why I was thrilled to see the Atlantic Coast Conference decided to follow in the footsteps of the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten and put a stop to the essential musical chairs-type of activity and halt the departure of universities to other conferences.  Since you still probably have marital divorce on your mind, what the ACC has done is basically create a prenuptial agreement to protect their conference long-term (through 2026-27).  Just like you would be, the ACC grew tired of schools coming and going at will and taking the earnings from their media rights in their previous conference with them.  I think this is a pretty fair concept.  If you play in our conference, we’ll be more than happy to share our earnings, and give you a $20 million slice of our pie.  “A Grant of Rights, in basic form, is written permission from league members to relinquish control of television rights to the league for the duration of the deal.  If a school leaves, it forfeits those earnings to be spread among the rest of the conference.”  This will effectively protect the ACC, and other conferences, from conference realignment poaching.  Additionally, while the Grant of Rights should keep other conferences from attempting to pluck the ACC’s members, the $52 million exit fee that they’re now enforcing should effectively keep the conference intact for years to come.  While the revenue structure of the Atlantic Coast Conference has been on the lower end when compared to other major players like the Pac-12 and Big Ten, the adjustment of their model should increase their revenue stream by a substantial amount.