It’s a shame Maryland couldn’t have had a little more patience.
The ACC’s grant of rights announcement on Monday was spectacular. It was like one giant shoe coming down on every realignment rumor out there and squashing it like a bug. It was 15 university presidents standing together like a brick wall.
It was a conversation Maryland had absolutely nothing to do with.
Because Maryland will head to the Big Ten after the 2013 season, the Terps haven’t been allowed to participate in any conversations about the league’s future. And right now, more than ever before, the future looks bright for the ACC. One of the biggest storylines this offseason in the ACC has been the league’s lawsuit against Maryland, as the ACC has gone after every penny of the $52 million exit fee the ACC bylaws require of schools who want to leave the conference. Maryland filed a lawsuit, claiming it shouldn't be responsible for the money. How that lawsuit played out was said to be key in determining whether or not other schools would follow, just like West Virginia set a precedent when it left the Big East.
The lawsuit and the $52 million are still vital to the ACC, but whether or not Maryland has to pay up quickly became more irrelevant to the big picture on Monday when the league announced its grant of rights agreement. Now, if any ACC school leaves the conference, it leaves behind its media rights and revenue. No matter what happens with Maryland’s lawsuit, the ACC will still be standing on stable ground, but it's not going to let the Terps go without a fight.
The conference still has every intention of getting its money. For league officials in Greensboro, the grant of rights agreement coupled with the league's exit fee is its insurance policy that nobody is going anywhere anytime soon. The grant of rights agreement and the exit fee are supposed to be the ultimate double whammy, and the ACC will still try to make an example out of Maryland -- which is unfortunate for everyone, but now more than ever it looks like the Terps never had to leave.
The Grant of Rights agreement was an unbreakable sign of solidarity through 2027, but it was also the start of the next step – an ACC network.
"The assignment of media rights to the ACC by each member guarantees stability in the league, of course,” NC State athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement released by the school. “But, it also opens the door more widely to a discussion about an ACC Network, something that a number of ADs believe would further enhance the ACC brand.”
Now the ACC can have some serious talks about a network similar to the one that makes the Big Ten its big bucks. The ACC was never house poor to begin with, but an ACC network would almost have guaranteed Maryland no good reason to leave. While the ACC is figuring out the best way to make even more money, Maryland will likely be lining up against Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State on a routine basis in the Big Ten’s East Division.
First, though, it has to get untangled from its lawsuit with the ACC.
A motion will be filed today in Upper Marlboro, Md. in opposition to the ACC’s motion to dismiss the suit in the state of Maryland. According to The Washington Post, the grant of rights agreement could make it even more difficult for the ACC to win the lawsuit because the ACC’s case “weakens as the conference itself grows stronger and more stable.”
Sounds like a fair trade for the ACC, all things considered, but the conference isn't going to settle.
In the end, the court will have to determine if Maryland’s obligated to pay the ACC its $52 million dollar exit fee, but the joint decision for a grant of rights agreement? Priceless.