Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Mystery of the ACC Grant of Rights

Coercion - the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats.

There's a riddle I'm trying to solve. A mystery that could lead to another piece in the college football expansion puzzle clicking into place.

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.

 Coerced? Really?

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 Unless you tell me otherwise everything you share will be off the record.


  1. I have a source who said Missouri and Virginia are next to join.
    WVU replaces Missouri.
    Big XII replaces with Colorado State.

    1. ,That's interesting. Especially since back during the expansion boom, the rumors were that the SEC was either taking Missouri or WVU( & we all know they took Missouri). But If I'm understanding you right, why would Missouri leave the SEC for the Big10? & since when(& why) is the SEC still interested in WVU.

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  3. [re-post of deleted with added clarity]

    Source is now saying UCF will be Big 12 if they pull a Marshall in the new AAC (e.g. convincingly dominating with NFL caliber players for a period of 3 more years) . Cincy is the likely 12th due to WVU island situation AND stadium upgrades.

    BYU is wildly off the table. Just too difficult to deal with and is a potential political nightmare as gay rights become front burner politics in the next 10-20 years.

    Note - Britney Griner is openly gay and played for and won titles for Baylor. They would be out of their minds to ban gay athletes now. TCU probably would let it happen as well. BYU.... would not. And no conference wants that potential media bomb on their hands.

    The Missouri, VA to Big stuff is off the table now. ACC is stabilized.

    In fact, ACC will reach 16 first so I am told. ND and UConn and then MSG ACC Tournament before B1G claims it.

  4. Lack of consideration is probably the better defense. If there is no consideration (ie, money or giving up something in exchange for something else), there is an argument that there was no 'meeting of the minds' - and no contract.

    Coercion or duress requires a showing that there was a bad faith threat of harm (things like threatening to withhold a payment or to breach an existing contract) that induces the party to enter into the new contract - but it also requires that there was no reasonable alternative. There were probably other reasonable alternatives here (ie, FSU to the Big XII, UVA to the B1G, etc.)

    Still, there might be two legal theories that could at least be legitimately asserted as a defense against enforcement of the ACC 'grant of rights.' Meaning, the parties would have to duke it out in court or settle.

    Although I have no clue from where "The Source Award" gets his information, I tend to agree that the ACC is fairly stable now. There are strong arguments that the ACC's long term stability is more secure than the Big XII, in fact. The FSU national title doesn't hurt. Nor does the Orange Bowl relationship. Or the Notre Dame deal. Or the ACC basketball tourney to Brooklyn, etc. But, even more importantly, the ACC markets cover a good chunk of the US population. There are a lot of people (and football fans) from Miami to Louisville to Boston...and everywhere in between.

    The Big XII includes Texas and some fly-over states. It's amazing the Big XII still is what it is.