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Report: ACC discussing adding Cal & Stanford as UC Regents meet on the dissolution of Pac-12
Could the California Golden Bears make the transition from one coastal conference in the Pac-12 to the Atlantic Coast Conference?
The California Golden Bears in the ACC? What a strange new world we could live in.
According to Pete Thamel, the talks are well underway for the ACC to look at the possibility of adding Cal and Stanford and avoid nasty relegation talk.
Sources: In the next 24 hours, there’s two calls for the ACC to vet and have early exploratory discussions on the potential addition of Cal and Stanford. One is for ACC athletic directors and the other for the league's presidents and chancellors.
The ACC is in early stages of exploring the idea of adding Stanford and Cal as league members, two league sources confirmed to The Athletic. The sources stressed that they are in an information-gathering stage and that they couldn’t predict where it would end up.
The UC Regents are scheduled to meet Tuesday morning to discuss what happened with the Pac-12 and the best way for Cal to find a home in the new order.
Academically and culturally, Cal and Stanford in the ACC make sense compared to the Big 12 (which both programs appear to have passed on at the moment). Several of the best public and private schools (North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Duke) live in that conference to make it an easy sell to the academics of each campus. And you have some bluebloods like Florida State and Clemson in football and North Carolina and Duke in basketball to provide legitimacy, although there have been recent rumblings both have been trying to find their way to the Big Ten or SEC.
Financially, it appears Cal and Stanford can join the conference pro rata at the current rate. ACC teams made an estimated $39.3 million per team in 2023, so although travel costs will be heavy, it’ll still net a significant profit compared to the Pac-12 streaming deal presented days ago.
Strategically, it give Cal and Stanford a decade or so of buffer as the ACC stays locked into its ironclad Grant of Rights through 2036. That Grant of Rights would penalize a school $120 million for departing, making it very difficult for FSU and Clemson to depart, although it also has flattened conference revenue as the SEC and Big Ten have soared past them.
Even though moving to the Big 10 or Big 12 would have necessitated hours more travel, at least Cal and Stanford would have enjoyed local West Coast partners in each conference. Oregon, Washington, USC and UCLA would have become a regular rotation in the Big Ten. The Arizonas, Colorado and Utah would be regular Big 12 opponents. So at least some of the Pac-12 scheduling would’ve been preserved, particularly in the Big Ten, with four of Cal’s longstanding rivals dating back to the Pacific Coast Conference.
Cal and Stanford on their own in the ACC is an island. Had the Pac-12 and ACC considered an alliance last year that consolidated media rights and partnerships between all schools, perhaps this would be easier to navigate. Now it’ll be far more difficult.
There is the matter of selling Cal fans on an ACC ticket package which includes one significant regional rival every other year. Although the ACC’s basketball profile is favorable, barring a turnaround from the Bears on the football gridiron, it’s hard to imagine ticket sales and renewals moving in the right direction.
And you’ll have to figure out which Olympic sports can accommodate such a significant conference leap. You’d figure some sports (rugby, water polo, swimming, field hockey) will be mostly unimpacted because they play in either local leagues or are already travelling nationally. Basketball could be chaotic, although there is the benefit of playing in a high profile conference with marquee foes that could boost interest.
With the ACC, Cal and Stanford will have to likely significantly adapt their athletic schedule to cater to East Coast travel. You’d be thinking back-to-back road games where athletic teams are spending weeks on the East Coast, with probably two consecutive weeks every fall being spent on the opposite coast. Cal and Stanford might have to tilt themselves toward more neutral site games to smoothen things logistically.
While Cal in the ACC isn’t a better option than the Big Ten, it’s preferable to the Big 12, it’s very preferable to the Mountain West, and basically any other scenario being discussed. If a Big Ten invite does not surface in the near future, Cal might as well take it, and survive, and regroup and make real plans or the long-term.
Cal cannot have it all anymore. The Bears are going to have to take the best of whatever bad options are presented to them.