California and Stanford have shown interest in joining the ACC, industry sources tell CBS Sports. What's not known is whether the interest is being reciprocated by the conference.
ACC athletic directors were scheduled to meet to discuss the schools' viability on a Monday call. ACC presidents meet later this week on the subject. It's not clear whether either meeting includes exclusive discussion of expansion. The talks are considered preliminary at this time, but as we've seen over the last couple years, realignment can accelerate quickly.
Furthermore, the University of California Board of Regents has scheduled a meeting at 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday to discuss its Pac-12 membership.
Cal and Stanford potentially moving across the nation to the easternmost power conference could be the first significant piece of fallout from last week's significant realignment moves. The Northern California programs have apparently been left out by the Big Ten in any potential plans for further expansion as the Bay Area is considered to be overrated as a television market, industry sources tell CBS Sports.
The Pac-12 was all but killed last week whenwith by moving to the Big 12 -- all at the start of the 2024 season. USC and UCLA had previously decided to join the Big Ten that season.
Why the ACC?
The biggest question in a potential addition of Cal and Stanford by the ACC is whether expanding with those programs would bring enough prominence into the conference to raise the average annual value (AAV) of its media rights contract with ESPN. ACC schools are expected upwards of $40 million from the deal, more than the Big 12 average ($31.7 million) but significantly less than their peers in the Big Ten and SEC.
If adding the Golden Bears and Cardinal did increase the ACC's AAV, would it be enough to satisfy Clemson, Florida State, Miami and other programs who are frustrated with their shares?
Cal and Stanford would be considered cultural fits. Both schools are members of the prestigious American Association of Universities (AAU). Six of the current 15 ACC schools, including Notre Dame -- part of the conference in everything but football -- are AAU members.
Why not the ACC?
Such a move would result in significant travel issues -- namely scheduling and expenses. As much as has been made about the West Coast teams in the Big Ten, the shortest road trip for Cal and Stanford in the ACC would be 1,978 air miles to Louisville. It would take seven hours to fly from either program to Boston College or Syracuse.
Stanford, a private university considered the top academic institution to play in the FBS, has been rumored to be considering independent status. That would impact the Olympic sports for a program that frequently wins the Director's Cup, an annual award for the nation's best athletic department. Stanford, which fields more collegiate sports than any FBS athletic program in the nation, won the Director's Cup for the 26th time this academic year. The award has only been around for 29 years.
As a private institution, Stanford is not required to release financial information for its athletic department. However, not having a home or financial backing from a major West Coast conference could prove to be highly problematic. Stanford attempted to cut 11 varsity sports during the pandemic but ultimately reversed the decision after backlash.
Joining another power league could be a significant boost for the Cardinal, even though the ACC remains well behind the Big Ten and SEC in media rights revenue. The dynamic could be significant for Cal as well; the Bears also field a number of high-performing Olympic sports teams.
What about Oregon State, Washington State?
Cal and Stanford -- along with fellow Pac-12 leftovers OSU and WSU -- have also been mentioned as possibilities in the Mountain West and American, though the former pair are far larger institutions by nearly every metric.
Oregon State was one of the original four members of the Pacific Coast Conference, a predecessor to the Pac-12, in 1915. Washington State joined two years later. Both programs have seemingly been uniquely targeted to be left out of major college football long term.
In fact, a Pac-12 president reportedly contacted a Big 12 president after the Pac-12's lackluster media rights presentation and requested the league take the remaining Pac-12 schools -- except Oregon State and Washington State -- according to Action Network.
The Beavers and Cougars, unfortunately, stick out compared to other athletic programs. They rank at the bottom of every financial metric among public Pac-12 schools, according to Sportico. Their donations trail the next-lowest team by more than 25%, and they received a combined $20 million in institutional support during the 2021-22 school year. More than 40% of Oregon State's revenue came from media rights and conference distributions last year. Falling into a non-power conference could be devistating financially for both programs.
Editor's note: The original version of this story noted that ACC members would earn around $30 million annually from its new media rights contract, which has since been corrected to $40 million.