Cal officially announces their ACC 2024 move, will accept heavily reduced revenue until 2031
The California Golden Bears will see 24 sports join the the Atlantic Coast Conference. It's an open question how many can be sustained.
The official announcement from Cal Athletics is out. The California Golden Bears will be in the ACC starting in 2024.
UC Berkeley will be joining the ACC as a full member in August 2024. The university will receive a full share of all revenues, including media revenue, while contributing back a portion of its media revenue to support and strengthen the conference and its current member institutions. UC Berkeley's membership contribution will taper off until the 10th year, at which point it will begin retaining 100% of its media revenue share. The fact that annual revenue will increase over time was an important factor in the agreement.
The financial terms have leaked out, and they are definitely rough. SMU’s seven years of no revenue have been bumped up to nine. Cal and Stanford will be getting no revenue escalators for seven years. Via Stewart Mandel:
I’ve confirmed the revenue distribution for Stanford/Cal: 30 percent the first 7 years. 70 percent in Year 8, 75 percent in Year 9, 100 percent Years 10-12.
The original proposal was that Cal and Stanford would come in at around 30 percent, but then that distribution would increase in escalators every year. This drastic increase only comes in 2031-32, which is likely when the next major round of realignment kicks in as major college media deals are up for renegotiation.
The final bargaining to turn that last needed “no” vote to a “yes” from NC State will mean Cal will make only about ~$8-10 million a year from ACC Tier 1 media rights compared to the $25-30 million their peers are expecting from 2024 to 2031.
UPDATED,: Cal will get a full payout of College Football Playoff/March Madness conference splits, which
should add another $8-10 million. currently pays out at around $8-10 million. But it figures to expand once the 12-team playoff is implemented.
Some more detail: It's 30 percent of *Tier 1* media distribution (which is about $24M per school). They still get a full share of ACC Network, CFP money, bowls, NCAA units. ACC all-in distribution to schools last year averaged $39M.
Stanford/Cal's total ACC distribution will likely be slightly north of $20M initially -- well more than a Group of 5 share but a steep cut from what it makes in the Pac-12 ($37M).
So about $20+ million in all will be coming Cal’s way in the first year of the ACC. That still falls well short of the $30-40 million Cal was making in the Pac-12 prior to its extinction.
Can Calimony make up the revenue losses?
This does make the importance of the potential Calimony UCLA will likely need to pay even more dire to make up the expected revenue loss. Jon Wilner followed up with the Chancellor:
Cal chancellor Carol Christ on the so-called 'Berkeley tax" from UCLA in light of Bears taking reduced revenue shares from ACC: "It's a regents decision, and the regents haven't made that specific decision yet. But I expect they will sometime soon."
If Cal were to receive an annual $10+ million from UCLA to pay back financial damages created by their decision to desert the Pac-12 and implode the conference, it would alleviate the situation. With some general assistance from central campus, along with increased booster support, it’s possible the Cal athletic department can hold steady and not have to cutback too drastically. Without that financial assistance, a lot of difficult decisions could lie ahead.
What sports are sticking and what travel adjustments will be made?
For the meantime, Cal is planning on bringing on all 24 sports of the 30 that competes into the ACC. My unofficial count of those sports is…
Men's and women's basketball
Men’s and women’s golf
Men’s and women’s soccer
Men’s and women’s swimming & diving
Men’s and women’s tennis
Men’s and women’s cross country & track and field
19 of the 30 sports will see no scheduling changes and minimal scheduling impacts, since many of these sports have regional alliances they will likely remain in (rugby, men’s crew, water polo, men’s gymnastics), while others already travel nationally like golf, tennis, lacrosse and field hockey. There will be assessments to minimize overall travel on the remaining 11.
Chancellor Christ mentioned Dallas as a potential middle ground for ACC teams to meet up with Cal and Stanford to offset travel costs. Jon Wilner:
Cal chancellor Carol Christ on travel: "The ACC is really interested in using Dallas as a place where teams might come together to have games to minimize the impact of travel on both eastern members and Cal and Stanford."
It is likely there will be more pressure than ever put on non-revenue athletic programs to self-sustain themselves through donor support. We will have to see if that’ll be enough in the coming year to keep them afloat in the ACC.
How will the schedule logistics work out?
The ACC will be making some trips to Cal and Stanford, but not very frequently. ACC commissioner Jim Phillips outlined the vision.
In football, east coast teams will travel to the west coast to face Cal and Stanford every other year, according to Phillips. Meanwhile, Cal and Stanford will travel to the east coast three to four times per season.
As for men’s and women’s basketball, current ACC teams will take two trips every four years and will play Cal and Stanford on those trips. Cal and Stanford will come to the east coast three-to-four times per year, according to Phillips. Those teams will play two games each time they travel east.
You could possibly see Dallas (or some other neutral site like Chicago or Vegas) come into play for a neutral site matchup every now and then in football and basketball to offset cross-country travel/attract national alumni to visit. But it does seem like the travel costs have been a bit overstated.
As mentioned earlier, Dallas (where SMU resides) does seem like the proposed site for potential Olympic sporting events, at least in the final reported drafts of the ACC deal. It has yet to be fully ironed out though.
There are some questions around how SMU and Cal will fit into the Notre Dame schedule, since they’ve scheduled their five ACC game yearly allotment through 2037. Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir says Stanford will keep playing Notre Dame annually out-of-conference. It’ll be critical for Cal to work in a Notre Dame home game sometime this decade for ticket sale boosting.
Official statements from our UC leaders
Chancellor Carol T. Christ announced Friday that the University of California, Berkeley, will join the Atlantic Coast Conference beginning with the 2024-25 academic year.
"We are very pleased with the outcome, which will support the best interests of our student-athletes and aligns with Berkeley's values," Christ said. "We are confident that the ACC and its constituent institutions are an excellent match for our university and will provide an elite competitive context for our student-athletes in this changing landscape of intercollegiate athletics. I want to thank UC President Michael Drake, Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton and ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips for the partnership, hard work and leadership that made this agreement possible."
"We made this decision in the best interests of our student-athletes, the university and our extended Cal community of alumni and supporters," said Christ. "We look forward to cheering on the Golden Bears in their new conference home, just as we look forward to many more years of competing for The Stanford Axe."
"We are excited that our student-athletes will continue to have the opportunity to compete against like-minded schools that prioritize academics and athletics," Knowlton said. "When you look at the quality of the institutions in the ACC, this is an incredible fit. Our student-athletes will continue to compete at the highest level, while getting a degree from one of the world's best universities."
"I'd like to thank Chancellor Christ, President Drake and an unheralded, but essential, group of advisers and advocates who were in the trenches with us as we fought for the future of Cal Athletics," Knowlton said. "I'd also like to thank ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips, who was indefatigable throughout this process. I really look forward to partnering with him as a member of the ACC. I am confident that this agreement will serve and support the best interests of our amazing student-athletes, coaches and staff,who make us proud every single day."
Who do we have to thank for Cal making it to the ACC?
Obviously everyone is acting in their self-interest to add money to their pot, but it did take a lot of cajoling to make all of this happen.
Stanford stuck with us. Unlike Oklahoma with Oklahoma State, Oregon with Oregon State and Washington with Washington State, Stanford had the chance to untether. But they made it clear. They wanted Cal with them.
(Now I can’t make fun of them as much. It hurts.)
Notre Dame advocated all month to make Cal and Stanford happen and it’s likely we don’t get far without them.
Boston College, Pitt, Louisville, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Miami supported this from the beginning, to get us to the finish line. Mike Silver singled out Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest as key allies.
Then there’s NC State being the final flip vote, once all final concessions were made.
I’d like to thank our own Cal people, but because of the lack of media reporting of the Cal side of things, I can only say Christ and Knowlton did their best in a crisis and followed in lockstep with Stanford to find a home.
Mike Silver also reported California governor Gavin Newsom had a hand to play in making this all happen. Will he also play a part in Calimony discussions? He was not happy about UCLA’s departure from the Pac-12.
The future of the ACC is itself an uncertain proposition. Clemson, Florida State, and North Carolina will be more determined than ever to hit the eject button and find a new home in a major conference, and will likely seek out that path once they can afford the exorbitant exit fees locked in by the Grant of Rights. That could actually be a decent short-term boon to conference members, but it’s unclear when that will actually happen.
But that’s for another day to worry about. For now, Cal is in the ACC.
It’s the least worst thing. So for Cal, it’s the best thing they could’ve hoped for after an anxiety-inducing month.