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Monday, December 4, 2023

N.C. State’s Woodson cited as key to ACC expansion

North Carolina State Chancellor Randy Woodson appears to be the kingmaker in voting for the ACC to add three schools — Stanford, Cal and SMU – and create a bi-coastal, 18-member league.

Sources told ESPN that Woodson flipped his vote Friday after he had previously joined Clemson, Florida State and UNC Chapel Hill in dissenting from the expansion.

The board of trustees at UNC Chapel Hill issued a statement Thursday opposing the expansion, which has been interpreted as a way to influence Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz from changing his vote. But Woodson believed it was his decision, and the board did not vote on the matter, an N.C. State spokesman says.

Woodson issued this statement today: “The NC State brand, and historical competitiveness of our programs, is already well-recognized and established. The addition of these outstanding universities gives us even greater opportunities to build on the Wolfpack’s national presence, which in turn will generate more long-term benefits for our student-athletes, our athletic programs, and our loyal fan base.”

The ACC needed 12 of 15 votes to allow expansion. In a straw poll more than three weeks ago, four ACC schools dissented — Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina and NC State. It was a 12-3 vote on Friday with NC State flipping, multiple sources confirmed to ESPN’s Andrea Adelson.

The move will add $50 million to $60 million in annual revenue for the league, which will be split among 14 full-time members and Notre Dame, which competes in sports other than football, ESPN says. While most of that money will be split evenly, some will be used for “success initiatives” that reward some achievement. Leaders at Clemson and Florida State have been particularly outspoken about the need to shift more money to successful athletic programs.

Cal and Stanford have agreed to receive 30% shares of ACC broadcast media payments compared with other member schools, according to media reports. Their desire to join stems from sharp decline of the Pac 12 conference after pending departures by USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington. Rather than join a smaller Western conference, the two elite California schools are opting to enter the ACC.

SMU is willing to accept no broadcast media revenue for nine years, but will be moving up from the lesser funded American Athletic Conference.

Former First Lady Laura Bush was involved in SMU’s effort to join the ACC, while former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice aided Stanford’s effort, people familiar with the situation say. The Bush family is closely tied to SMU, while Rice is a professor and former provost at Stanford.

Proponents of the expansion say adding the three schools will aid the ACC because of the strength of the Dallas and Bay Area television markets. SMU is in Dallas, while Stanford and Cal are in the San Francisco suburbs.

Opponents criticize the extra cost of travel and burdens for student-athletes related to the long airline flights from coast to coast. The expansion involves all sports, although football brings in most of the revenue because of TV contracts.

ACC schools receive at least $10 million less than their peers annually that belong to the Big 10 and SEC conferences because the latter have superior TV contracts. The ACC’s deal with ESPN is slated to run through 2036, making it difficult for the ACC to fill the gap.

Woodson is among the most powerful chancellors nationally after serving in his role since 2010.

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at dmildenberg@businessnc.com.

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