Divvying dollars key issue as ACC leader ponder western expansion with Stanford, Cal and SMU

Atlantic Coast Conference athletic directors held a video call to discuss — again — the possibility of adding California, Stanford and SMU to the league and what to do with the extra revenue that could come with expansion.

The ACC's university presidents and chancellors have the final say on expansion and the full board was not involved in Thursday night's talks. As of Friday morning, the next formal meeting of ACC leadership had not been scheduled.

ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips has been searching for ways to create more revenue for a conference that is locked into a media rights contract with ESPN that runs through 2036 and leaves its members in danger of falling way behind Big Ten and Southeastern Conference schools.

Florida State leaders have gone so far as to say if nothing changes they would be forced to try to find a way out of the conference, though breaking contracts with the ACC could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

If the ACC adds schools, ESPN is obligated to increase its total annual payout to the conference to cover an equal annual share for each new member, estimated to be about $30 million per year. Any new members would likely take a reduced rate upon entry — possibly drastically reduced — and the incumbent members would share the rest.

Stanford and California are desperate to find a landing spot for next year with the Pac-12 down to four schools. Eight Pac-12 members have already announced this will be their final seasons in the league.

SMU, the Dallas private school in the American Athletic Conference, has informed the ACC it would be willing to forgo any distribution payment for several years if invited to join, a person with direct knowledge of the school's plans told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because SMU is not making its strategy public.

At issue in the ACC is how that money will be distributed, according to multiple people who have been involved in the discussions, all speaking to AP on condition of anonymity to share private internal discussions.

With Florida State, Clemson, Miami and North Carolina leading the push, ACC leaders earlier this year agreed to a “ success incentive initiative” that would allow schools to earn more of the money generated from their own postseason performances in football and men's basketball, plus other potential bonuses.

The amount of expansion-generated revenue that goes toward the incentive initiative as opposed to being distributed equally among members is a key issue that could determine whether Phillips can get the required 12 of the 15 schools to approve adding new members, a person briefed on the ACC’s talks told AP.

Two weeks ago, ACC presidents declined to hold a formal vote on expansion, knowing it would have likely failed, with at least Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina and North Carolina State not supporting the plan.


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