Cal, Stanford still hoping for ACC invite, but there's no indication they have the votes yet
The waiting game continues for the California Golden Bears in looking for a new home.
The only news we’ve gotten on Cal’s future in the college football realignment game is news about news.
We now have further insight on the ACC process of vetting Cal and Stanford but not extending an invitee off the bat. Andrea Adelson of ESPN compiled a thorough report of what transpired last week as the Bears and Cardinal fell one vote short of being invited.
What was certain was there were votes in favor of expansion (Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Louisville, Miami, Georgia Tech) and votes opposed (Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina) and swing votes in between. Another administrator thought enough of the 15 voting presidents would swing to yes and get the required 12 to approve expansion.
Once the call started, it became clear that would not be the case. No official vote was taken. In straw polling, the fourth school opposed was NC State, according to multiple sources.
The major reason many ACC schools (particularly Notre Dame) were in favor of adding Cal and Stanford was it would provide conference added security in case an agitated Florida State sought an earlier exit than the Grant of Rights. Notre Dame was in favor of keeping the ACC strong so it kept their independence bid financially viable compared to joining a major conference like the Big Ten. More from Adelson:
Among athletic directors, the initial conversations around Cal and Stanford did not yield much. But further discussion changed minds. Multiple administrators in favor of the move described it this way: longer-term security in the event schools such as Florida State leave the conference. The Seminoles are not the only ones who have looked at their future and evaluated the grant of rights, which gives the ACC control over home broadcasts and media revenue through 2036. Six other schools had discussions with Florida State about the grant of rights and charting a path forward: Clemson, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and NC State.
If the ACC added Cal and Stanford, the new schools would also have to sign the grant of rights until 2036. The current ACC contract is the longest running among all the power conferences, and adding more schools would help with stability. One administrator put it this way, "If I was the commissioner, I would be doing the exact same thing he is doing, looking to add schools."
However, a few ACC members were less than excited at ONLY adding Cal and Stanford this quickly, when earlier rumors hinted at several to a half-dozen members potentially joining.
While more athletic directors moved in favor of adding teams, they were still not completely aligned with the presidents. Some asked why there was urgency. For more than a year they had discussed having more than two teams from the West Coast in order to get any deal done, but demurred. Now they were OK with only two? One administrator pointed out that plenty of dominoes could fall, potentially starting when the Big Ten television contract comes up after the 2029-30 season, and the Big 12 deal is up the following year. Why the rush?
Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated described North Carolina (Hi Mack Brown!) as one of the biggest stumbling blocks.
Multiple sources described North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham as the key administrator among the four who are opposed to adding the Bay Area schools. “He’s the loose block in the Jenga tower,” as one source put it.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been making calls on behalf of Stanford, as has internet innovator Jerry Yang. SMU, meanwhile, has enlisted former President George W. Bush, one source says.
No rumors of any prominent Cal alum repping for the Bears have yet to surface.
Talks are continuing according to Forde:
Although still considered unlikely at the moment, the talks continue. One ACC source in favor of adding the Bay Area schools described it as a “third and 15” situation instead of trying to execute a Hail Mary.
Cal and Stanford are definitely caught between a rock and a hard place. With the Big Ten front falling silent and the ACC hinging on a vote switching from four hard nos, the alternatives look relatively bleak:
A Pac-4, MWC, AAC coalescence, spearheaded by Oliver Luck where brands like SMU, Tulane, San Diego State, Boise State, etc. join together with Cal, Stanford, Oregon State, Washington State. This merger could depend on whether Cal or Stanford are interested, as they would drive up the value of the potential media deal.
A return to chatting with the already hostile Big 12, and swallowing the poison pill of being in a conference full of schools that do not like Cal and Stanford for blocking previous Big 12/Pac-12 mergers or partnerships. The Big 12 has said they are closed to expansion at this time, but we all know that if Cal and Stanford were to suddenly show interest that would change.
An embarrassingly reduced offer from the Big Ten, where Fox is willing to bleed the two universities for everything they have.
Independence, and rebuilding the brands on their own terms, while rapidly scaling down the scope of the athletic departments.
Relegation, and the end of Cal and Stanford as we know them.
It didn’t have to be like this if Cal had put its house in order. But here we are.