Expansion primer: Where things stand with ACC, Cal, Stanford, SMU and more as decision nears
ACC presidents are expected to meet this week, finally providing clarity on expansion targets as Week 1 approaches.
Resolution on the ACC’s consideration of Cal, Stanford and SMU for admission should come within the next couple of days, multiple sources told The Inside Zone, as talks were renewed among league presidents late last week, with a need for clarity ahead of the start of the college football season next weekend.
ACC athletic directors met last Thursday to further discuss the merits of expansion, and league presidents are expected to meet on Monday or Tuesday to determine the next, and presumably final, steps.
Let’s break down what’s at stake and what could come next, via conversations with a half-dozen league sources:
Why would the ACC expand?
There is a “strength in numbers” mantra that has the majority of the league’s schools pushing to add teams, in the event that any current school leaves in the near future, as impractical as that is given the current television dynamics. Not that that’s stopped Florida State from publicly threatening to leave the ACC despite not having any alternative, especially with the league owning each school’s grant of rights through 2036.
Still, the thinking among many schools within the league is that the Pac-12 was done in by not adding newcomers after UCLA and USC announced their intentions to leave in the summer of 2022. That led to a sense of instability, which led to Colorado leaving for the Big 12 last month, which led to five other schools leaving a week later for the Big Ten and Big 12, effectively killing the Pac-12, which is down to four schools.
Cal and Stanford are top-20 academic institutions that fit the ACC’s academic makeup. They are also Olympic sport powers, particularly Stanford, which has won the Directors’ Cup in 26 of its 29 years of existence. That is in keeping with the ethos of the ACC, which, for all of its football troubles, is coming off a season in which it won a nation-best nine NCAA championships.
If Clemson and FSU (or any other schools) were to magically find a way out of the ACC, the thinking within league corners is that after expansion they would at least still be 15 strong, and 14 strong in football without Notre Dame.
SMU is another strong brand that, like Cal and Stanford, is in a major market.
What’s the hold up?
What’s always the hold up? The money, dammit.
Or, in this case, how the new money would be distributed.
Will the additions of Cal, Stanford and SMU make the ACC richer? Here’s where it gets complicated.