Why The Agreement To Split ACC And NBC TV Revenue Could Help Notre Dame
Jack Swarbrick sought the maximum amount of certainty in an unpredictable situation. John Swofford was happy to oblige and provide it, because the ACC needed a boost too.
The result was a long-expected, little-hassle agreement that Swofford, the ACC commissioner, called a “win-win” in an interview with ESPN.com. It appears to be a mutually beneficial partnership for financial reasons as well, due to one condition in their agreement.
All 15 ACC schools will receive an even split of television revenue from the ACC’s contract with ESPN and Notre Dame’s with NBC, a decision that Swofford said was met with little resistance. After doing some quick math, it’s easier to understand why.
“It was not hard for us to come to an agreement on that in terms of the television money,” Swofford told ESPN’s Andrea Adelson. “It was not hard for us to come to an agreement that if they were coming in, they were bringing their NBC games, they would play the same number of games as everybody else in the league, then they would be eligible to play in the ACC football championship game as well as the Orange Bowl, if they turned out to be our representative in the Orange Bowl.”
Ballpark math shows why Notre Dame was glad to agree to an even share.
The ACC made $455.7 million in 2018-19, down from a record $464.7 million the year before. The drop was due to the Orange Bowl hosting a College Football Playoff semifinal the year before. Notre Dame earned $7 million as a partial member, and its deal with NBC pays $15 million annually.
Off NBC and ACC TV revenue, Notre Dame made $22 million, while each ACC school earned an average of $29 million, according to an ESPN report. Notre Dame also earns $3.19 million from the College Football Playoff each year, no matter if it was selected or not.
The Orange Bowl is not a playoff game in 2020, so a revenue jump can be expected. For simple numbers’ sake, let’s call it $460 million if this were a normal season. Adding the $15 million from NBC to the pot would make it around $475 million. When divided into 15 parts, that’s $31.7 million per school.
The $3.19 million CFP payout to Notre Dame seems unlikely in a year where it is not independent, but the ACC gets $66 million from the CFP each year, plus $6 million for every team selected to it and $4 million for every team it places in the New Year’s Six. If Notre Dame doesn’t get its normal CFP payment, it’s likely it would earn a 1/15th share of the ACC’s, which would be more than the normal $3.19 million.
Thing is, those NBC and ESPN figures are the likely numbers under normal circumstances, which of course don’t apply this year. The NCAA Tournament cancellation slashed payouts from it by more than 60 percent. And a 12-game season is not going to happen. Outbreaks among teams could force an uneven number of games. Exact figures are not really guessable, because no one knows how the season will play out, if it’s played at all.
The ACC revenue-sharing model is still a win for Notre Dame even if overall revenue is down due to shorter seasons and pandemic complications. Notre Dame would still be facing the same problems if it had remained independent, with the normal $15 million from NBC and partial ACC payout unlikely to reach full value either.
Swarbrick, though, pushed back on the idea this could lead to full-time membership in football. The idea that independence is a money-loser is not new to him, and staying independent is a many-factored decision that goes beyond total revenue. Swarbrick told ESPN the decision was a product of the unusual circumstances and “unrelated to Notre Dame’s long-term assessment of independence,” which Swofford echoed.
“We’re in a difficult situation, all of us in this country and in sports, and in the ACC we’re trying to find the best path,” Swofford said. “We’ve said over and over again, we’re in it together. It was the best thing for the ACC, it was the best thing for Notre Dame, and that makes it pretty easy when you know that.”
For now, the ACC’s plan is an 11-game season that begins the week of Sept. 7-12, with 10 conference games and one non-conference contest. Specific dates and non-conference opponents have not been announced. So far, the Irish have lost Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Arkansas from their original 2020 schedule, with one of Navy and Western Michigan also needing to go. They gained games against North Carolina, Florida State, Boston College and Syracuse.
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