On Monday, several reports surfaced identifying the ACC as a possible landing spot for Stanford and Cal following last week’s collapse of the Pac-12, though the conversations are in early stages. ACC athletic directors and university presidents are expected to meet within the next day to discuss the potential addition of the Bay Area pair.
However, not all ACC members appear to be on board with the expansion with worries that Stanford and Cal don’t bring enough value to offset increased travel costs. Any offer will likely come with reduced shares of the league’s revenue, but it would still be more lucrative than merging with the Mountain West. Another option for Stanford and Cal is going independent in football until the next round of conference realignment.
If Stanford and Cal aren’t extended offers by the ACC, they could be at serious risk of cutting their athletic department budgets with reduced revenue distribution on the horizon.
The ACC currently divides revenue equally among members, but Florida State and Clemson have called for bigger slices of the pie. FSU president Richard McCullough even went so far as to say the school would “very seriously” consider leaving the ACC barring a significant change to the conference’s revenue distribution model. However, it will prove difficult to get out of the ACC’s Grant of Rights, which runs through 2036.
It’s possible the ACC feels increased pressure to expand after conference realignment chaos took place last week. Just a few days ago, Oregon and Washington bolted for the Big Ten. Then Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah followed Colorado to the Big 12. With USC and UCLA already committing to the Big Ten, that left the Pac-12 with just four remaining schools for the 2024-25 season: Stanford, Cal, Oregon State, and Washington State.
The addition of Cal and Stanford would give the ACC 16 full members (Notre Dame is independent in football), making them one of four conferences with at least 16 members starting next season. Both the SEC and Big 12 will have 16 members while the Big Ten is ballooning to 18 members.
Not that it’s being factored into this decision, but if the ACC did absorb Cal and Stanford, the conference would be absolutely stacked from a swimming perspective. Three-time defending NCAA women’s champion Virginia is building a dynasty in Charlottesville while the Cal men are coming off back-to-back national titles and 13 straight top-2 finishes at NCAAs.