In a marriage made in college athletics' financial heaven, Georgia Tech became the eighth member of the Atlantic Coast Conference yesterday.
By admitting Georgia Tech, the conference's executive committee gave the ACC a third major television market and a traditional football power to enhance its growing ambitions in that sport.
For Georgia Tech, which quit the Southeastern Conference 14 years ago and then regretted having done so, it means better financial stability and an immediate fund-raising vehicle in tickets for the closed-to-public ACC basketball tournament.
The ACC executive committee and the Georgia Tech athletic board agreed to terms in Atlanta yesterday. Georgia Tech will be formally inducted as an ACC member May 16 at the conference's annual meeting in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Tech will begin league play in the 1979-80 academic year.
Tech spokesman Jim Schultz said the Engineers would like to remain a member of the Metro Seven Conference until then. The Metro Seven is a conference put together basically to give its schools an automatic berth in the NCAA basketball tournament.
Georgia Tech's withdrawal would not affect that conference's automatic bid. Metro Seven Commissioner Larry Albus said yesterday from St. Louis it would decide whether to retain Georgia Tech as a lame-duck member at a spring meeting next month.
Tech will be added to the round-robin ACC basketball schedule in 1979 and will be eligible for the ACC tournament that season. But, as a term of acceptance, the Engineers will not get a full allotment of the valuable scholarship-fund-raising tickets until 1982.Tech, according to ACC sources, also paid an entrance fee, believed to be at least $100,000.
Football scheduling is the biggest problem, since Division I games are scheduled a decade or more in advance. The only ACC school on Tech's schedule the next two seasons is Duke. Negotiations between ACC schools and nonconference opponents with poor box-office appeal are expected to get under way shortly.
ACC Commissioner Bob James said yesterday it is possible that the ACC will count some of Tech's games against such non-conference teams as Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee and Notre Dame in league standings.
Nevertheless, that is only a small hitch in this checkbook marriage. Regardless of how long it takes to get Tech an ACC football schedule, the rewards for Tech and the seven president conference schools - Maryland, Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Clemson - are immediate.
For instance, Georgia Tech's membership now means that the ACC will be covered in three of the nation's largest television markets: No. 8 Washington, No. 16 Atlanta and No. 20 Baltimore. That must be taken into consideration when ABC-TV chooses a regional game. The price tag: approximately $200,000 for the ACC.
In Maryland's case, buying out such football opponents as Richmond and Villanova can be rewarding, if Tech also can eliminate a weak draw and add the Terps to its schedule. The ACC currently splits football gate receipts, by guaranteeing the visiting team at least $45,000 or 50 percent of the net receipts, whichever is greater.
Despite five straight bowl appearances under coach Jerry Claiborne, Maryland does not sell many of its $8 football tickets at full value. One source said the Terps have averaged only one game a year over those five seasons in which 30,000 or more tickets were sold at full price. Tech is a name football draw. The Engineers averaged 47,000 paid customers last year at $8 and $9 a seat. Their stadium seats 58,121.
"The main crux," said Maryland's promotions director, Russ Potts, "is the football. We (the ACC) had four bowl teams last year. In a good year, we could have five bowl teams. Plus Georgia Tech plays a good schedule. It reflects on the conference's ovarall reputation."
The ACC became a stronger football conference when the "800 rule" requiring all prospective ACC athletes to score a combined 800 or better on their two college board tests, was dropped four years ago. But football is a big-money sport and the ACC has small stadiums.
Tech's Grant Field seats at least 10,000 more than any ACC football stadium did last season.
In basketball, the rights fee for ACC games will increase by an estimated 30 per cent, and Atlanta is the base for such commercial advertising plums as Coca-Cola, Budweiser and American Motors. The Southeast also will be opened to ACC recruiters.
Tech won't be hurt by its new affilation. For instance, the school has never raised more than $350,000 in scholarship funds. Give it some ACC tournament tickets to sell and it will have a potential $1 million annual base, as have three ACC schools.
The contributors already are lining up, Schultz said.
"Plus, the financial picture is more stable. In off years, you share in bowl receipts and television revenues," he added.
As Virginia has done. The Cavalivers, who consider every football victory a momentous occasion, now collect $250,000 annually from their compatriots' bowl receipts and television revenues.
One question is how the loss of ACC basketball tournament tickets, approximately 300 per school, will affect the other seven scholarship funds. The answer is not all bad because of the simple effect of supply and demand, according to at least three ACC officials.