The Eastern origins of the Atlantic Coast Conference are growing.
The ACC presidents and chancellors met on Friday morning and decided to add Stanford, Cal, and Southern Methodist University. The conference will then include 18 members, with 17 of them regularly participating in league football. All sports will benefit from the enhancements, which will start in the academic year 2024–2025.
The last month has seen a lot of controversy surrounding the changes as commissioner Jim Phillips worked hard to placate a group of members keen to add the schools and others looking for extra cash. The lengthy process finally resulted in the ACC expanding against a background that exposed some of the core disputes within the league.
“We are thrilled to welcome three world-class institutions to the ACC, and we look forward to having them compete as part of our amazing league,” Phillips said in a statement.
“Throughout the evaluation process, the ACC Board of Directors, led by [University of Virginia] President [James] Ryan, was deliberate in prioritizing the best possible athletic and academic experience for our student-athletes and in ensuring that the three universities would strengthen the league in all possible ways.
Cal, SMU and Stanford will be terrific members of the ACC and we are proud to welcome their student-athletes, coaches, staff and entire campus community, alumni and fans.”
Votes in league matters are typically unanimous and are just a formality when the presidents gather to decide, therefore the manner by which the move was made was unusual. 12 out of 15 votes were required for the ACC. In a dramatic departure from how conference expansion usually operates, it was unclear whether the league had the votes going into the meeting on Friday morning.
Four ACC institutions—Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina, and NC State—dissented in a straw poll conducted more than three weeks ago. All eyes were on Randy Woodson, the chancellor of NC State, coming into the meeting since one of them had to change for the vote to succeed.
According to sources who spoke with ESPN’s Andrea Adelson, the vote on Friday was 12-3 with NC State switching.
“The NC State brand, and historical competitiveness of our programs, is already well-recognized and established,” Woodson said in a statement. “The addition of these outstanding universities gives us even greater opportunities to build on the Wolfpack’s national presence, which in turn will generate more long-term benefits for our student-athletes, our athletic programs, and our loyal fan base.”
When the University of North Carolina board of trustees published a statement to express their opposition to the modifications, the attention on Woodson increased that evening. Around the ACC, such action was seen as a political statement meant to prevent UNC chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz from changing his vote.
“I respect the outcome of today’s vote and welcome our new members to the ACC,” Guskiewicz said in a statement Friday. “My vote against expansion was informed from feedback I have gathered over the last several weeks from our athletic leadership, coaches, faculty athletic advisors, student-athletes and a variety of other stakeholders who care deeply about our University and the success of our outstanding athletic program.
I look forward to working with all our colleagues in the ACC to ensure excellence in academics and athletics — something our conference has long been known for.”
Although UNC and NC State didn’t have to be linked, the political repercussions of siding with South Carolina prevented Woodson from casting a clear vote.
Florida State abstained on Friday as well.
“We appreciate the efforts of Commissioner Phillips and our conference partners,” Florida State president Richard McCullough said in a statement. “There are many complicated factors that led us to vote no. That said, we welcome these truly outstanding institutions and look forward to working with them as our new partners in the Atlantic Coast Conference.”
In a teleconference discussion on the additions on Friday afternoon, Phillips remarked, “There is something for everybody in here.”
“When you have a threshold like 80%, I think you can understand that a great majority of the schools were in favor and are in favor,” Phillips said. “When we left that call today, everybody was in a really good place and felt very good about the process and that their schools had a chance to state what they believed were the positives of this move and maybe some of the things that weren’t necessarily, in their minds, best for the league.”
The ACC now forms part of the continuously evolving collegiate scene. The Big Ten will have 18 teams starting in the following season, while the Big 12 and SEC will each have 16. After losing eight teams since late July, the Pac-12 now has just two remaining programs: Washington State and Oregon State. This move continues the league’s downward spiral.
“We are confident that the ACC and its constituent institutions are an excellent match for our university and will provide an elite competitive context for our student-athletes in this changing landscape of intercollegiate athletics,” University of California-Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ said in a statement.
Cal, Stanford, and SMU will be available at a sizable discount, generating a revenue pool that will be distributed among ACC members.