Coercion - the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats.
Ask the right person the right question and doors open to new pieces of the puzzle. Sometimes the best leads are throwaway statements that seem innocuous at the time but take on greater meaning after review and reflection.
Last week a reputable source associated with a Big Ten school used the word "coercion" when asked why ACC schools signed a grant of rights.
At the time the importance of the word "coercion" didn't completely register. I was trying to determine the exact "weakness" the Big Ten had reportedly identified in the ACC's grant of rights and not having much luck cracking that particular buckeye. He wouldn't volunteer information except for the fact that the Big Ten was waiting for the ACC's exit feel to be ruled punitive.
I questioned him relentlessly throwing out theory after theory. He refused to comment until I finally said the only difference between the Big 12's grant of rights and the ACC's grant of rights was that ACC schools didn't get anything in return.
Finally I had hit on the right combination and he opened up. The Big Ten thought the ACC's grant of rights could be successfully challenged because the ACC member institutions didn't receive any consideration (money) for their rights.
That's when he said an ACC member had said they were coerced into signing the grant of rights.
How could the ACC or any conference coerce members into signing a contract that transfers their television broadcast rights for nothing? I don't understand how that could occur.
Of course that opened up a different line of questioning. So far all the questions are unanswered and all I can do is guess.
My first thought was that FSU was coerced and once the Seminoles were onboard all the others fell into place. Plausible? Certainly. If FSU was coerced what was the hammer the ACC used to nail them down?
Less likely but still plausible was that FSU and the ACC coerced Virginia into signing the grant of rights.
Why do I think that? Mostly because of the assurances about UVA and the Cavaliers interest in the Big Ten and Eric Barron's stated love for the ACC.
The above is just a theory so please don't take it out of context.
There are no answers - only more questions.
I don't have many contacts in the ACC so I need help in figuring this out. Did the ACC coerce its members into signing the grant of rights without consideration? If so how did they coerce them?
I'm not even certain ACC schools were coerced. Did they receive anything but promises and intangibles like "security"?
Anyone out there reading this with information and willing to answer some questions please email me at email@example.com. Unless you tell me otherwise everything you share will be off the record.