The ‘Atlantic’ Coast Conference goes far west, adds Cal, Stanford and SMU to league

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The Atlantic Coast Conference, a college sports alliance with a membership rooted solely in the Eastern Time Zone, will spread west next fall, adding the University of California, Stanford and Dallas’ Southern Methodist University to its league, officials said Friday.

Cal and Stanford are the ninth and 10th institutions of the Pacific-12 Conference to announce their departures from the century-old league, leaving just Oregon State and Washington State in limbo 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 Carolinas.

“This is a significant day for the ACC as we welcome Cal, SMU and Stanford to this incredible conference,” 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 in the future.”

Friday’s announcement is the latest domino to fall in a stunning shift in college sports with schools dropping longtime, local alliances to chase greater TV money in far-away leagues.

USC and UCLA stunned the college sports world last summer when the Los Angeles schools announced they’d be joining the Midwest-centric Big Ten in 2024-25.

Oregon and Washington followed, bolting the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. That triggered Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado to depart to the Big 12, a league with most of its members between Texas and Iowa.

All of those Pac-12 defections forced the 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 suitable geographic fit for Cal and Stanford, the Northern California institutions did not want to step down in stature and TV money.

Financial terms of the admission of Cal, Stanford and SMU were not immediately disclosed.

But Cal said in a statement that it will be “contributing back a portion of its media revenue to support and strengthen the conference” and that those payments “taper off until the 10th year, at which point it will begin retaining 100% of its media revenue share.”

Cal’s shortfall in ACC media revenues will be at least partially made up by UCLA, which could end up paying between $2 million and $10 million annually under terms of its Big Ten departure set by the UC Board of Regents.

The three schools will be competing in the ACC in all sports it currently sanctions.

Aside from fellow newcomer SMU, the closest ACC cities to Cal and Stanford will be South Bend, Indiana, and Louisville, Kentucky, both about 2,200 miles away from the Bay Area.

The league will focus on “minimizing travel burdens for student-athletes,” according to Ryan, the Virginia president and ACC chair.

A potential workaround to cross-country travel would be for some non-revenue sports to hold games on neutral ground in Texas.

“The ACC is really interested in using Dallas as a place where teams might come together to have games to minimize the impact of travel on both eastern members and Cal and Stanford,” Cal Chancellor Carol Christ said.

The ACC’s current 15 members 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, soccer and softball.

The conference is best-known for its men’s basketball prowess and fierce Tobacco Road rivalries. UNC has won the NCAA Tournament six times, and Duke is a five-time champ.

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