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ACC clears way to add Stanford, Cal, SMU, AP sources say, providing escape for 2 Pac-12 schools

FILE - Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips answers a question during an NCAA college football news conference at the ACC media days in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, July 20, 2022. The Atlantic Coast Conference has cleared the way for Stanford, California and SMU to join the league, two people with direct knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023, providing a landing spot for two more teams from the disintegrating Pac-12. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond, File)

FILE – Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips answers a question during an NCAA college football news conference at the ACC media days in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, July 20, 2022. The Atlantic Coast Conference has cleared the way for Stanford, California and SMU to join the league, two people with direct knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023, providing a landing spot for two more teams from the disintegrating Pac-12. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond, File)Read More

BY AARON BEARD AND RALPH D. RUSSO contributing

The Atlantic Coast Conference has cleared the way for Stanford, California and SMU to join the league next year, two people with direct knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Friday, providing a landing spot for two more teams from the disintegrating Pac-12.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement was still being prepared. The conference’s university presidents and chancellors met Friday morning and voted to extend invitations to the three schools.

The additions make the ACC the latest power conference to expand its membership and footprint westward. Starting in August 2024, the league with Tobacco Road roots in North Carolina will increase its number of football schools to 17 and 18 in most other sports, with Notre Dame remaining a football independent.

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Notre Dame is currently the westernmost ACC school in South Bend, Indiana, with Louisville the farthest west among football members.

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But now, like the Big Ten and Big 12, the ACC will be a cross-country conference. The ACC will span from Boston in the Northeast to Miami in South Florida, out to Dallas in the heart of the Southwest and up to the Northern California, where Stanford and Cal reside.

The ACC becomes the fourth super conference with the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 all having at least 16 football-playing members — and seems to signal an end to realignment among the nation’s wealthiest and most powerful leagues.

The move appears to be a marriage of desperation for the Bay Area schools, in need of a Power Five conference to call home after the Pac-12 was picked apart by the Big Ten and Big 12.

For the ACC, adding three schools will increase media rights revenue from its long-term deal with ESPN, and allow the conference to spread much of that new money to existing members.

New conference members typically — though not always — forgo a full share of revenue for several years upon entry.

The ACC has been generating record revenue hauls, yet is trailing the Big Ten and Southeastern conferences, and staring at an even greater gap as those leagues have new TV deals kick in.

The ACC’s deal runs through 2036.

The ACC reported nearly $617 million in total revenue for the 2021-22 season, according to tax documents. That included distributing an average of $39.4 million to full members, with Notre Dame receiving a partial share (roughly $17.4 million) as a football independent.

Yet the Big Ten reported $845.6 million in total revenue (an average of $58 million in school distributions) and the SEC reported about $802 million in revenue ($49.9 million per school) for that same time period.

The ACC outgained the Big 12 (roughly $136 million) in total revenue for third among the Power Five that season, though Big 12 schools received more money per school (roughly $43.6 million) with the league having just 10 members.

The angst over revenue led the ACC to announce plans for schools to keep more money based on their postseason success that has typically been evenly distributed to league teams.

The sticking point on expansion, which the ACC has been weighing for more than three weeks, has been how much of the new money from ESPN for three more members will go into the new performance-bonus pool and how much would be shared equally among existing members.

Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina and North Carolina State had been opposed to expansion when the conference presidents chose not to vote three weeks ago on adding the three schools.

As late as Thursday night, two North Carolina trustees released a statement saying they were opposed to the ACC’s expansion plan.

Stanford and Cal will be the ninth and 10th schools to inform the Pac-12 that this will be their last sports seasons in the self-described Conference of Champions.

The Big Ten lured away Oregon and Washington earlier this month. That came a little more than a year after Southern California and UCLA started the Eastern migration by West Coast schools when they announced they were leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024.

The Big 12 has poached four Pac-12 schools for next year: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah.

The Pac-12 will now be down to Oregon State and Washington State.