Pac-12 and ACC Discussing ‘Loose Partnership’ to Potentially Create More Value in Media Rights Deal

The Pac-12 is walking wounded after losing both UCLA and USC to the Big Ten, but it is still (trying) to throw haymakers to stay afloat. The latest such swing appears to be a quasi alliance with the ACC. According to multiple reports — first from John Canzano and confirmed by CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd — the league is discussing with the ACC a kind of “loose partnership” that could “end the season with the conferences playing a championship game.”

So why would two separate conferences play a championship game when the two leagues have their own separate conference play? Well, the answer to that — and pretty much every other question the last year in regards to realignment — is pretty simple: cold, hard cash. Here is Dodd:

The concept, believed to have been proposed by the ACC, is seen as a way for the conferences’ common rightsholder, ESPN, to increase the value of their current media rights contracts.

[CBS Sports]

And here’s Canzano, a Pac-12 insider, who initially said the loose partnership with the Pac-12 could possibly be with the Big 12 or the ACC. (Dodd nailed down that it was the ACC.)

The Pac-12 issued a statement on Tuesday morning, indicating that conference leadership was given the go-ahead to accelerate its media rights negotiations. I took this to mean that a potential TV partner (Read: ESPN) might be initiating the “loose partnership” discussions. . .

What would a “loose partnership” with the ACC look like? It could include a shared media rights deal with ESPN, who currently works with both entities. Also, it could result in the 10 remaining Pac-12 teams sticking together and the winner of that “10-team division” playing in an ACC vs. Pac-12 championship game in Las Vegas at the end of the season. Also, there could be some attractive regular-season crossover games between the entities in football and men’s basketball.

Here’s the truth: the Pac-12 almost certainly is not interested in hitching its wagon to the ACC. Yes, they share the same TV partner. Yes, there might be strength in numbers. Yes, the TV markets the ACC can offer — Boston, D.C., Atlanta, Miami, Louisville, etc. — are appealing.

But the ACC currently has the worst TV contract among all power conference players and it is not close. Its deal runs through 2036. 2036! The 20-year deal was agreed on in 2016 and was quickly seen as an albatross.

To me, this indicates that the ACC is just as desperate as the Pac-12 to find an anchor so as it doesn’t sink in this round of realignment. And, because of that, to me it appears the Big 12 remains in a strong position within the market to potentially take advantage of the current landscape and possibly add to its ranks.

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