SwimmingStanford, Cal Considered for Membership in Atlantic Coast Conf.

Stanford, Cal Considered for Membership in Atlantic Coast Conf.

Report: Stanford, Cal Considered for Membership in Atlantic Coast Conference

With the latest round of conference realignment currently leaving the four-remaining Pac-12 schools — Stanford, Cal, Oregon State and Washington State — without a power conference home, a new option has emerged for the Cardinal and Golden Bears, two swimming powers on the national level. According to multiple reports, including ESPN’s Pete Thamel, the two Bay Area schools are being considered for membership in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

According to Thamel, discussions of adding the two schools to the east-coast-based league are “exploratory” and “in the embryonic stages.” Conference realignment has been driven by the pursuit of increased revenue from football television contracts, and while neither Stanford nor Cal are considered premier football programs, both schools are considered prestigious academic institutions with strong records of success in Olympic sports.

The issue with Cal and Stanford’s addition to the ACC is similar the challenge now plaguing former Pac-12 conference rivals USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington, four schools now bound for the Midwest-based Big Ten. Of the ACC’s 15-school membership (14 for football plus Notre Dame for other sports), all are located in the Eastern Time Zone, necessitating a cross-country flight and likely more than one flight to travel to a sporting event including Cal or Stanford plus one of its hypothetical east-coast conference rivals in the ACC.

“It’s complicated,” an ACC source told Thamel. “There’s a significant travel expense. I think it’s going to be all over the board with both the ADs and the presidents in what they may want to do. [Cal and Stanford] would likely have to take a reduced share. Eventually, though, they’re going to want to become a full share.”

Additionally, the additions of Cal and Stanford are unlikely to help the ACC’s overall revenue, according to ESPN. The ACC’s long-term television deal with ESPN has limited the earning potential of its schools compared with those in the SEC or Big Ten, and recently, officials at Florida State have openly expressed concern about the school’s future, despite being essentially locked into the ACC for another decade thanks to TV.

Thamel mentioned that Cal and Stanford are considering other options for their conference future, including the possibility of remaining in the Pac-12 alongside Oregon State and Washington State, both of which sponsor women’s swimming programs but not men’s, and adding at least two other schools for 2024-25 and then further institutions from the Mountain West after that.

The future of Stanford and Cal is a hot topic among swimming fans because of both institutions’ success in the sport. Stanford’s women won three consecutive national titles from 2017 through 2019 while Cal’s men are two-time defending national champions with 13 consecutive top-two finishes at the national level. Cal’s women also won multiple national titles in the previous decade. And on the international level, nine swimmers who were current or former students at Cal or Stanford represented the U.S. in swimming at the Tokyo Olympics.

Read more from ESPN here.

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