The “loose partnership” reportedly being discussed by the Pac-12 and ACC in the wake of USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten might actually end up being anything but loose, albeit nothing like what you might expect.

According to reporting by Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger and Pat Forde, officials from both the Pac-12 and ACC are discussing a “broadcasting partnership with ESPN.”

The partnership, an idea more than anything else at this point, reportedly “heavily involves the ESPN-owned ACC Network.”

Per Dellenger and Forde, the ACC Network — owned and operated by ESPN — would acquire the “exclusive rights to broadcast Pac-12 games to West Coast households through ESPN cable providers.”

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There would be no merging of the conferences, no title games pitting conference champions against each other.

Rather, the agreement would be about media rights with ESPN.

The benefits to such an agreement, per Dellenger and Forde, would be numerous.

  • “The ACC would receive long-sought additional television revenue.”
  • “ESPN would get a piece of Pac-12 inventory.”
  • The Pac-12 would, in theory, survive, with its “10 remaining members getting an attractive TV arrangement.”
  • It would also mark the end of the nearly 10-year experiment known as the Pac-12 Network.

Dellenger and Forde argue that such an agreement “might also be a more desirable alternative for Pac-12 schools than looking to join the Big 12.”

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The idea is a fledgling one, with sources telling Sports Illustrated that ACC athletic directors believe “it’s something that has been considered worth exploring, but nothing has had any detail put behind it. ... The general response has been, ‘Give us more (specificity).’”

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Perhaps most interestingly, the proposal would theoretically leave the ACC’s grant of rights agreement intact.

That agreement is considered by experts to be extremely punitive to schools attempting to leave the conference and one of the main reasons that the ACC hasn’t been raided by the Big Ten and SEC, unlike the Big 12 and Pac-12.

“The new partnership with the Pac-12 may not reopen the contract, but it will change the bottom line,” Dellenger and Forde wrote.

“That might be the best option for the ACC, because a complete renegotiation of the contract could open a path for the league’s most valuable properties — North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Virginia — to explore leaving.”

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