In a legal brief submitted Tuesday, the latest development in the ongoing legal saga between the University of Maryland and the ACC, the school included a market analysis performed by the league, which aimed to “evaluate the current-day competitiveness of the ACC and the long-term growth opportunities and positioning of the conference in the industry.”
The accompanying legal brief, a response against the ACC’s motion to dismiss Maryland’s counterclaim under the state’s antitrust act, explicitly references the market analysis only once, in a section discussing the “relevant product and geographic markets,” a key point of contention during antitrust suits. The ACC’s analysis, however, deals with six distinct sections, each aiming to show the league’s future competitiveness: Academics, Geographic Footprint, Football, Basketball, Television and Financial.
Bear in mind, that Maryland filed this into the court docket, not the ACC. A call to the Maryland attorney general’s office for explanation on why exactly this would be submitted was not returned.
But the ACC’s arguments go as follows:
According to the ACC’s research, which did not include Maryland among its member institutions but did include incoming member Louisville, the league ranks first among the five major conference in average U.S. News and World Report ranking from 2012 at 55.7. The Big Ten (58.6) narrowly ranks second, with the Pac-12 (81.8), Big 12 (113.1) and SEC (120.8) far behind.
This is the only academic metric used in this section.
“If an entrepreneur wanted to start a new conference as a business,” the introductory section says, “the ACC geographic footprint is the most viable market in the country.” It later references the Big 12 and West Virginia, which it calls a geographic “outlier” because “WVU travel issues are requiring discussion after just one year,” and adds that the ACC has no such outlier.
The ACC claims the largest geographical footprint of any major conference “in terms of total population of persons,” including what it calls a “staggering” 70-million difference between it and the Big 12. The analysis also includes age demographic maps for 15-34, a key television grouping, to illustrate how “the ACC footprint had the most states with double-digit population growth.”
“Interestingly,” it adds, “the Big Ten footprint would not have had any states with double digit growth without Maryland and in fact, two states lost population in this key demo.”
Neither the ACC nor Maryland responded immediately to requests for comment or expansion on the analysis, when it was conducted and for what reason.
In referencing supposedly misleading “media reports” that “would lead one to believe the ACC has limited competitive abilities in football,” the conference first cites recruiting numbers to demonstrate a football prowess that evidently has gone ignored.
The league first cites recruiting statistics, with the ACC ranking second among signing ESPN top 150 recruits from 2011-2013 and argues that, “if the ACC isn’t a competitive football league, the data suggests it isn’t impacting the decision of top recruits.” This is somewhat of a false cause argument, because top recruits could flock to ACC schools for any number of reasons, like the proximity to their hometowns, but nonetheless the league has indeed signed 28 more top 150 recruits than the Big Ten (85 versus 57) but almost half as few as the SEC (162).
Other data cited here include the eight consecutive seasons of at least 30 players drafted into the NFL, making the ACC one of only two conferences to hold that distinction, the six BCS national title game appearances, second only to the SEC, and the fact that the ACC averages eight non-conference football games against preseason top 25 opponents, more than any other league. (One could reasonably suggest that other leagues book lighter out-of-conference slates because their in-conference schedules are so grueling, and the comment that “there is a myth among some in the media that the ACC doesn’t play tough schedules” is also interesting.)
It begins like this:
And contains the following points:
>> The ACC is the only conference to have all members reach the NCAA tournament over the past six seasons.
>> The ACC leads all conferences in total NCAA basketball appearances over the past 12 seasons, with the most (five) national titles, second-most (11) Final Four appearances, second-most Elite Eight appearances (18) and most Sweet 16 appearances (39).
Here is where things get interesting, and certainly more relevant to the Maryland v. ACC lawsuit, which came about almost entirely because Maryland deemed it more financially beneficial to leave its old league and join the Big Ten, largely because of the presence of an exclusive television network.
The analysis heaps credit onto the Big Ten Network for being “highly successful,” which has given the Big Ten “a financial advantage over all other conferences.” But it also argues that “contrary to what has been widely reported, the average annual value of the new ACC TV agreement with ABC/ESPN is the largest in collegiate sports at close to $275M.”
According to the analysis, ESPN and the ACC will meet within the next 60-90 days “to determine whether an ACC Network can be successful.” If ESPN, after assessing the market viability of such a network, decides to proceed, then it has “indicated it will do a deal on the same terms and conditions as it has with the SEC on the SEC Network.” More details on that agreement can be found here.
Rehashing the ACC’s television deal — and blacking out the value of television revenue for other conferences — the analysis ranks the ACC second in average annual value per school. It also projects similar distributed revenue for the new college football playoff system and future NCAA tournament revenue.
The full document is embedded below: