The Atlantic Coast Conference, a collegiate sports alliance with members rooted only in the Eastern Time Zone, will expand west next fall. University of California, Stanford and Dallas’ Soutside Methodist UUniversity to its league, officials said Friday.
Cal and Stanford are the ninth and 10th Pacific-12 Conference institutions to announce their departure from the century-old league, leaving Oregon State and Washington State in the dark for the 2024-25 sports and academic year.
SMU now plays in the American Athletic Conference, based in Irving, Texas, and already regularly competes against teams in the Southeast and the Carolinas.
“We welcome Cal, SMU and Stanford to this incredible conference, and this is a significant day for the ACC,” said University of Virginia President and ACC Board Member James E. Ryan. said in a statement. “This expansion will enhance and strengthen the league now and into the future.”
Friday’s announcement was the latest domino to fall in a dramatic shift in college sports, with schools long abandoned and local alliances chasing more TV money in far-flung leagues.
USC and UCLA stunned the college sports world last summer when the Los Angeles schools announced they would join the Midwest-focused Big Ten in 2024-25.
The Pac-12 bolts for the Big Ten, followed by Oregon and Washington. That prompted Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado to leave for the Big 12, with most members between Texas and Iowa.
All those Pac-12 departures forced Bay Area schools into a desperate search for admission to a major sports conference.
While the Mountain West Conference, based in Colorado Springs, would have been a good geographic fit for Cal and Stanford, the Northern California institutions didn’t want to get into status and TV money.
Financial terms for Cal, Stanford and SMU’s admissions were not immediately released.
But Cal said in A Report It will “re-contribute a portion of its media revenue to support and strengthen the conference” and “those payments will be reduced until year 10, at which time it will begin to retain 100% of its media revenue share.”
Cal’s deficit in ACC media revenue will be partially offset by UCLA Departure set by the UC Board of Regents.
All three schools will compete in all sports currently allowed in the ACC.
Besides fellow newcomer SMU, the closest ACC cities to Cal and Stanford are South Bend, Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky, both about 2,200 miles from the Bay Area.
According to Ryan, the Virginia president and ACC president, the league will focus on “reducing travel burdens for student-athletes.”
A possible solution to cross-country travel for some non-revenue sports is hosting games at a neutral venue in Texas.
“The ACC is really interested in using Dallas as a place where teams play together to minimize the impact of travel on both East members and Cal and Stanford.” said Cal Chancellor Carol Crist.
The current 15 members of the ACC include Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Pitt, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
Notre Dame plays football as an independent, but is in the ACC for other sports such as basketball, baseball, football and softball.
The move west is also considered an insurance policy for the ACC and its long-term survival as one of its big-name football institutions. Clemson or Florida StateLeave for another league sometime.