Stanford introduced on Sept. 1 that it could be becoming a member of the Atlantic Coast Convention (ACC) in 2024 alongside the College of California, Berkeley and Southern Methodist College. Whereas there may be promising monetary upside to the long-term media revenues of the ACC, the transfer raises bigger questions concerning the well-being of student-athletes and the way forward for Stanford athletics.
After spending over a century within the Pac-12, Stanford will begin its subsequent chapter and produce its custom of educational and athletic excellence to a brand new set of opponents throughout the nation. Whereas establishing the suitable lodging for athletes could take a while and experimentation, student-athletes expressed confidence the Cardinal may have a vibrant future within the ACC.
The choice to hitch the ACC adopted two consecutive seasons of considerable convention realignment. The domino impact started in 2021 when Texas and Oklahoma agreed to depart the Huge 12 for the SEC, and continued with the downfall of the Pac-12 when USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington bolted for the Huge Ten and Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Arizona State headed for the Huge 12.
Convention shifts have been largely based mostly on media rights and revenues, particularly for soccer video games. Many Pac-12 members stated convention management failed, together with the last-minute, unsatisfactory TV offers that have been offered to the faculties.
By early August, Stanford was one among 4 faculties that remained within the Pac-12, inflicting them to scramble to discover a new convention.
Megan Olomu, a senior girls’s sprinter and co-president of the Scholar-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), discovered the Pac-12’s collapse to be an awesome loss for the NCAA and Stanford.
“It is a convention that has existed for 108 years with a wealthy tradition of athletic dominance. We had a whole lot of Olympic athletes bred in our convention, and it’s the one Energy 5 convention on the West Coast,” Olomu stated. “Letting all of that historical past and success collapse on the expense of cash and greed was fairly disheartening.”
Though Stanford was one of many final groups to change conferences, Olomu stated the College labored to keep up its core values and uphold the Pac-12.
“Hindsight is all the time 20/20, however Stanford wished the continuity of the Pac-12. I feel some faculties could not have been as forthcoming about their true intentions about staying,” Olomu stated. “We could have sacrificed some choices by not shifting earlier, however I’m pleased with how the college dealt with it.”
Hunter Hollenbeck, a senior males’s diver and SAAC co-president, acknowledged that Stanford was compelled into discovering a brand new convention.
“Once we noticed that the Pac-12 was now not viable, we needed to discover a new residence that will nonetheless match the Stanford id of being glorious at every part,” stated Hollenbeck.
Sophomore baseball pitcher Kassius Thomas shared an analogous sentiment. “It was undoubtedly reactive, 100%. I used to be questioning why they didn’t be part of one thing nearer. However the ACC does maintain a distinct type of weight to it that’s above a convention just like the Huge 12. I like the selection,” Thomas stated.
The transfer to the ACC holds numerous upsides, together with an elevated nationwide presence, higher media revenues and a brand new stage of competitors.
The media revenues, nevertheless, are beginning at a reduced fee. For the subsequent seven years, each Stanford and Cal will obtain simply 30% of the ACC tv payouts, roughly $8 million per yr. After the seven-year mark, they’ll obtain 70% in yr 8, 75% in yr 9 after which full shares beginning in yr 10. Regardless of the preliminary pay lower, the convention shift ought to be a profitable deal a decade from now.
Camille Peisner, a junior girls’s sprinter, predicts that Stanford’s ACC membership will enhance recruiting, particularly from East Coast excessive faculties.
“Proper now, Stanford recruits numerous California college students. If you happen to grew up in LA, for instance, you watch Stanford play UCLA and USC,” Peisner stated. “So if we’re enjoying Virginia, these children in Virginia are going to develop up with [Stanford] as a family title. That can translate 10 years down the highway as soon as they’re taking a look at enjoying collegiately.”
Along with a recruiting benefit, some athletes stated shifting to an East Coast convention could improve the Stanford fan base.
“One of many nice issues concerning the ACC is that numerous our alumni reside on the Japanese Seaboard. There may be potential for much more involvement and fan engagement with this transfer,” Olomu stated.
The ACC additionally gives a distinct stage of competitors that athletes are leaning into.
“We’re embracing the chance to play in that convention … It was by no means about the place we’re situated. We’re going to be good both approach,” Thomas stated. “We’re getting into with one thing to show.”
Thomas, a brand new switch from Duke, stated he has a private motivation to excel within the ACC: “It’s type of humorous as a result of I left the ACC simply to return.”
“I had no thought this was going to occur. To me, it’s like a present. You get to return and dominate all the competitors that you just simply performed,” Thomas stated.
A member of the the lads’s tennis workforce, who spoke on the situation of anonymity, agreed that there have been new alternatives within the ACC. “The Pac-12 wasn’t the strongest tennis-wise, and I knew that altering conferences would give us an opportunity to play towards sturdy groups from the East Coast that we wouldn’t essentially play towards usually.”
“I wished to embrace this problem and numerous my teammates felt the identical approach concerning shifting conferences and seeing how we stacked up towards the remainder of the nation,” he stated.
Olomu, who not too long ago met with the ACC Commissioner, believes the transfer will reinvigorate Stanford athletics as a complete.
“They’re excited to have us, and we really feel very welcomed. This can trigger Stanford to choose up the place we’ve got been missing,” Olomu stated. “Personally, I discovered us missing in our aggressiveness within the NIL strategy, Alston and our media. We’re working to be a really aggressive college, and now within the ACC, which is a really aggressive convention. It’s a compromise, however I feel it’s a web plus going to the ACC. Having pleasure in your athletics program performs into an awesome college tradition general.”
Whereas there may be a substantial amount of enthusiasm behind Stanford’s transfer, the choice is coupled with worries concerning the potential adverse affect for some student-athletes.
In line with Hollenbeck, journey time is among the largest considerations for student-athletes proper now. “How can we determine teachers?” Hollenbeck stated. “Particularly sports activities like softball and baseball, the place you might be out throughout the nation for 4 to 5 days every week. You’re merely simply not going to high school.”
As a baseball participant competing in sequence as an alternative of particular person video games, Thomas expressed related considerations.
“Truthfully, I’m in all probability going to undergo a bit bit within the classroom. I prefer to suppose I gained’t as a result of we journey anyway, however now you’ve obtained longer flights,” Thomas stated. “It’s only a complete ordeal attempting to get there versus being extra native.”
Within the latest Cardinal Home (C-Home) assembly, a quarterly gathering that hosts coach-appointed representatives from every of the 36 groups, athletes mentioned these issues and brainstormed potential options.
“It raises numerous questions: Is there validity for us to get precedence enrollment, possibly even only for sections?” Hollenbeck stated. “Some individuals can now not take a lab from Wednesday to Friday. We’re additionally fascinated about the power to take lessons remotely and extra strong protocols. Proper now you simply need to ask actually properly and hope for the perfect.”
These potential modifications are a part of an extended dialog between student-athletes and the College in preparation for the transfer.
“We’re anticipating sure pushback from professors with considerations round recording lessons,” Olomu stated. “There was a really steadfast worth at Stanford that student-athletes shouldn’t be handled any in a different way than the scholars. Nevertheless, I’m going to push again a bit: There are numerous obstacles to ending the diploma that the student-athlete neighborhood faces. There are specific basic variations by way of time commitments. Now we’re having to spend a number of weekends touring 5 to six hours every approach and coping with a 3-hour time distinction.”
Hollenbeck stated diversifications shouldn’t be restricted to only the athletes, however ought to be prolonged to your complete scholar physique.
“Inside these modifications, we wish to be certain that it isn’t simply one thing that comes as an athlete privilege, however comes as options for all of us and extra succesful studying,” Hollenbeck stated. “Lots of people have time commitments that require touring. I feel there ought to be choices for everybody.”
Psychological well being is one other concern for the student-athletes. “Lengthy hours, lack of sleep, being away from college, it provides stress on you, takes you away from your folks, and makes you’re feeling extra remoted,” Peisner stated.
Whereas the precise particulars stay unclear, athletics director Bernard Muir dedicated to prioritizing psychological well being assets for student-athletes.
SAAC management can also be set to fulfill with the School Senate this week to debate considerations and greatest practices shifting ahead.
Athletes referred to as on Stanford followers to play a supportive function amid convention realignment.
“If you happen to discover that an athlete in your class has been lacking rather a lot as a result of they’re gone 5 days of the week, ship them your notes. Help is a lot greater than displaying up,” Peisner stated. “Although belief me, it means essentially the most to us when we’ve got followers within the stands.”
Kai Blankenship contributed reporting.