Commissioner John Swofford said Friday the Atlantic Coast Conference began talks to renegotiate its television deal with ESPN after deciding to expand to 14 teams.
In a phone interview with The Associated Press, Swofford talked about the league’s TV deal, outlook on expansion and scheduling.
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.”
It’s still unclear exactly when Pittsburgh and Syracuse will begin play in the ACC. Big East bylaws require a 27-month notice and $5 million exit fee. That would put the schools’ departure in the middle of the 2013-14 sports season unless they reach an agreement with the Big East for an earlier exit.
“We’ll be fully and totally respectful of (Big East) bylaws,” Swofford said. “The important thing is they’re coming and we’ll be ready and willing when they’re able to join us and prepared to join us. We’ll welcome them with open arms when that time comes.”
Swofford said he expected the ACC and ESPN would reach a deal before the arrival of the new schools, though he said he didn’t know exactly when it would be complete.
As for the ACC expanding to 16 teams, Swofford said it won’t anytime soon.
Though at least 10 schools have expressed interest in joining the league, Swofford said Friday the ACC is “very settled” at its new size, enough so that league is moving forward with plans for scheduling and divisional alignments for a 14-team league.
“If there are [expansion] opportunities opportunities that present themselves,” 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.”
Swofford said a 14-team league would continue to have divisions in football, but that could extend to men’s basketball for the first time. In addition, the arrival of Pittsburgh and Syracuse will likely mean the men’s basketball schedule for league games goes from 16 to 18 games.
He said Pittsburgh and Syracuse will have a say in the scheduling and divisional questions as well.
“We were considering 18 [games] when we were 12 [teams],” Swofford said. “Each of the other major conferences have already gone or are going to 18. That doesn’t mean we would necessarily do it, but I think one of the principles you look at as a conference is you want to see each other competitively as much as is feasible and makes sense.
“So there’s logic behind the thought that the larger you are as a conference, the likelihood there is you’ll play more conference games.”