After the ACC announced its Grant of Rights yesterday, which means ACC schools would have to forfeit all television rights to the league if they left the conference before 2026. This makes it very tough for schools to leave the conference, because while they can still challenge the ruling in court, it risks giving up around $260 million, rather than the old $50 million exit fee. Things can change, but more likely than not, this round of realignment is likely over. Now that it is, let's take a look back at how each conference ranked compared to its peers.
Additions: Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville
To be clear, this in no way means the ACC is the best conference now that realignment is over. In fact, it's probably the worst of the power five on average. However, considering how things could have ended up, the ACC did a good job maintaining its best schools and adding to its brand. There was talk about the Big Ten possibly stealing two teams — North Carolina, Virginia or Georgia Tech — and the SEC taking Virginia Tech, but the ACC was able to hold onto all of them. That's especially important in the cases of North Carolina — the top brand in the conference — and Virginia Tech — the top football school over the past decade. Yes, the ACC lost Maryland, but the damage was minimal compared to what could have happened.
Not only did the ACC maintain its best teams, it also added three programs that should help its reputation. Louisville looks like a steal, with a top-notch basketball program and a rising football program. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are both good additions, as well. The ACC is more of a basketball conference than a football conference, so the Orange and the Panthers make sense in that regard. Neither has a great football program, but neither is terrible, either. All in all, it was a solid realignment period for the ACC, especially considering how much potential there was for disaster.
Additions: Texas A&M, Missouri
Texas A&M to the SEC might be the slam dunk of this round of realignment; it's close between that and Nebraska to the Big Ten. It was an opportunity for the SEC to extend its conference footprint into Texas and it added a quality program that will make the SEC West more competitive than it already was — pretty hard to believe — and bring in more revenue. College Station is farther west than any other SEC school, but it makes more sense geographically than some other realignment moves.
For as great of a move as the Texas A&M addition was, the Missouri addition was very "meh." Missouri doesn't have a football program with much history, it won't be very competitive and it doesn't add much in terms of footprint and revenue. This was essentially a "we need to get to 14" move, and Missouri was the easiest option.
3. Big Ten
Additions: Nebraska, Rutgers, Maryland
As mentioned above, the Nebraska move was a slam dunk. It makes sense geographically, and it adds another historic program and lots of revenue to a conference that's already swimming in cash. Nebraska has been an exciting player in its first two football seasons, and that's expected to continue. Had the Big Ten just stopped at Nebraska, it could have been considered the realignment winner.
The additions of Rutgers and Maryland have gotten mixed reviews, and to be fair, it won't be possible to completely evaluate those moves for a number of years. The Big Ten didn't add Rutgers and Maryland for the sake of competition — it added them to expand the conference footprint to the East Coast and to get TV revenue from such a highly populated area. It's projected that each Big Ten school could get $30-35 million per year if everything goes according to plan. If that's the case, it will be tough to fault Jim Delany for adding Rutgers and Maryland, no matter how bad they might be at football.
4. Big 12
Additions: West Virginia, TCU
Subtractions: Nebraska, Texas A&M, Missouri, Colorado
How is the Big 12 not last? Well, common belief for awhile was that the Big 12 would cease to exist in a few years, and right now it's clearly alive and doing well. Obviously, any losses hurt, but the Nebraska and Texas A&M losses, in particular, were rough for the conference. But now, the "Great Big 12 Purge" appears to be over, and the league was able to hold on to Texas and Oklahoma, its two most important schools.
Yes, the Big 12 is only at 10 schools, while its counterparts are all at 12 or 14, but as Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel noted, the Big 12 is happy at 10 teams. The TCU addition isn't anything special, and in retrospect, Louisville might have been a better addition than West Virginia, but overall, things could have been a lot worse. The Big 12 is still intact, and it has its top programs; that's a win for the league after the grim outlook from just a few years ago.
Additions: Colorado, Utah
The Pac-12 wanted to get to 12 teams and it wanted to have a championship game, so it achieved both of those goals. However, commissioner Larry Scott really wanted to get to 16 teams, and he wanted Texas and Oklahoma. Obviously, neither of those things happened, and the Pac-12 ended up with maybe the two worst programs to "move up" in realignment — Colorado and Utah. Eventually there will be at least a little more balance, but the North Division has been much better than the South in the first two years of the division format, and it has made for dull championship games. This all begs the question: Is the Pac-12 really better off after expansion? Maybe not.