- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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We've got some bad news for those of you whose favorite pastime involves guessing which schools the Big Ten will add next: the expansion carousel might, finally, be grinding to a halt.
Or at least that's the sentiment for now, after the ACC presidents approved a grant of media rights for the league through 2026-27, colleague Brett McMurphy reports. The agreement means that every member school's media rights for its home games belong to the ACC for the next 14 years, even if that team decides to leave for another conference.
"That ends expansion right there," a source told McMurphy.
The ACC became the fourth major league, along with the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12, to secure a grant of media rights deal. (That the SEC doesn't have one and really doesn't need one says something about the power of that league). The Big 12 was able to stop its schools from fleeing with its grant of rights agreement. Leaving for another conference is essentially pointless if you can't make more TV revenue from the move.
We hope Jim Delany is happy with Maryland and Rutgers, because the Big Ten looks likely to stay at 14 teams for the foreseeable future now. The most often mentioned possible expansion targets for the league hailed from the ACC, such as North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia Tech. Now, the only schools the Big Ten could pursue without a grant of rights deal in the way would be those Big East refugees like UConn, Cincinnati and Temple, none of which seem like appealing candidates for the Big Ten for a variety of reasons.
The ACC's move could mean that college sports, at least at the upper echelons, reaches a level of stability for the first time since the Big Ten started the whole roller coaster by first announcing it would expand and then adding Nebraska. That would be a tremendous relief.
Of course, the ACC also thought a $50 million exit fee would prevent schools from getting poached, but that didn't stop Maryland from high-tailing it to the Big Ten. The grant of rights is a much, much stronger deterrent, but there's no guarantee that some school with eyes for another league won't challenge it in court. Whether the contract would hold up in the judicial process is a question for legal scholars to debate.
Let's hope it doesn't come to that. And maybe we can finally end the exhausting game of speculating about further expansion.