There may still be other developments in the dynamic roller-coaster that has been NCAA conference realignment, but it appears as if the ACC has seen the last of its major changes in terms of adding or subtracting schools. In a phone interview with the Associated Press, commissioner John Swofford talked about future expansion, scheduling and the league's television deal.
On the subject of expanding to 16 teams, Swofford hinted that it would not happen in the near future. The ACC, of course, recently expanded to 14 teams with the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
"If there are (expansion) opportunities that present themselves, we'll see," Swofford said. "All of this continues to evolve. But for people to think that we went to 14 to get to 16, that simply would not be an accurate assessment."
Not only will you not see a 16-team ACC in the near future, it's not yet clear when Pitt and Syracuse will formally make the jump from the Big East. Big East bylaws stipulate that teams must give a 27-month notice and pay a $5 million exit fee before jumping ship. Unless the Big East allows the schools to leave a bit earlier, that would put the schools in the awkward position of joining the ACC sometime in the middle of the 2013-2014 sports calendar cycle.
Since conference realignment seems to be driven primarily by financial motives, the biggest topic of the interview was what the conference's plans were to renegotiate its contract with ESPN. Swofford explained that the process had already begun.
The commissioner said the ACC and ESPN had informally discussed changes to the existing TV deal before starting negotiations last weekend following last month's decision to add Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Big East. This year, the ACC and ESPN began a 12-year deal worth $1.86 billion to give the network exclusive rights to conference football and men's basketball games.
Swofford wouldn't say how much the new TV deal could be worth.
"My only goal would be the preference of sooner rather than later," Swofford said of reaching a new deal. "We're negotiating with a current partner that we know well and are already well-engaged with."
What Swofford means by 'sooner rather than later' is hard to say. But because of the nature of how scheduling is handled in both basketball and football, one might assume that the negotiations will heat up in the latter parts of 2011 and extending into 2012.
As always, stay tuned for more news and updates about the ACC's expansion as it becomes available.