North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham took exception Thursday to the way Florida State has publicized its willingness to leave the ACC.
In an interview with 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh, N.C., Cunningham responded to comments Florida State president Richard McCullough made during a board of trustees meeting Wednesday. McCullough told the board that the Seminoles would “very seriously” consider leaving the ACC unless there is a radical change to the conference’s revenue distribution model.
“I don’t think it’s good for our league for them to be out there barking like that,” Cunningham said on “The Adam Gold Show.” “I’d rather see them be a good member of the league, support the league and if they have to make a decision, then so be it. Pay for the exit fee, wait for your grant of rights that you’ve given and then in 2036, when those rights return to you, do whatever you want.”
The ACC has a television contract with ESPN that runs through 2036.
Any school that wants to leave the conference would have to pay a $120 million exit fee, in addition to figuring out a way out of the grant of rights — which runs through 2036 and gives the ACC control over each school’s media rights.
Cunningham underscored this point: Every school in the league willingly entered into the grant of rights agreement when it signed the deal in 2016.
Earlier in the week, Florida State Board of Trustees chair Peter Collins told Warchant.com that the grant of rights “will not be the document that keeps us from taking action.” Cunningham countered that in his interview on 99.9 The Fan.
“When you have a general counsel and the university president and the board of trustees says I’m a member of this conference and you sign a document that says I’m granting my rights to you and you have my authority to go negotiate my rights to a network and the league does that on your behalf, I’m not sure how you can just say, ‘Just kidding. I didn’t like the deal that was struck and now I want to get out of it,'” he said. “Any contract, it obligates you to what you agreed to on the front end. So I’m scratching my head, wondering what are you talking about.”
As for solving the ongoing question about generating revenue and distributing it differently to try and close a growing gap with the SEC and Big Ten, Cunningham added: “Everyone would like to have more money and everyone would like to win more. I don’t think you have to have the most money to win the most games, and I think we’ve demonstrated that over the years.”
North Carolina, like nearly every school in the ACC, has had its legal counsel look over the grant of rights document and had discussions about what to do should another wave of conference realignment happen. To that end, Cunningham was not optimistic that the ACC would last in its current form.
“A lot of schools, a lot of individuals are going to have to make decisions about what their future looks like,” he said. “I don’t see this configuration lasting in perpetuity.”