The ACC’s presidents and chancellors voted Tuesday to accept a proposed settlement of a highly-publicized, transformative lawsuit.

No, not that one.

The battle between Florida State and the ACC over the league’s grant of media rights is still dragging on.
With no definitive resolution in sight.

Same for the corresponding litigation brought by Clemson.

This one is the landmark antitrust suit known as House vs. NCAA whose implications promise to have a far-reaching impact on the future of college sports.

For everyone. Not just the ACC.

The settlement, which is still awaiting approval from the SEC and schools formerly affiliated with the Pac-12, would create a fund of more than $2.8 billion to compensate former athletes denied the opportunity to sign name, image and likeness deals.

It would also create a revenue-sharing system that would officially end the myth of the “collegiate model” by providing another $20 million per school over the next 10 years to compensate athletes while shielding the NCAA and its members from further lawsuits.

The payments could begin as soon as the 2025-26 academic year.

There are still plenty of details to be worked out, including Title IX implications, roster caps and the format for how the money would be divided. And the deal must be signed off on by the presidential boards of the NCAA and each of the power conferences, as well as a district court judge in California before it can go into effect.

Not everyone is thrilled about the agreement, especially non-football playing leagues such as the Big East.

That’s why NCAA president Charlie Baker felt it necessary to pay a visit to the conference’s annual spring meetings in Amelia Island, Fla. earlier this month to explain the settlement to the gathered coaches and administrators and lobby them to endorse it.

It wasn’t an automatic sell considering that believe it or not, the ACC’s financial contribution would be more than that of the richer SEC, according to a document obtained by Ross Dellenger of Yahoo! Sports.

 

Even though the power conferences are only committed to footing around 40% of the bill, the result of the deal will inevitably add to the ACC’s already precarious financial situation.

So why was the league’s leadership so quick to sign off on it? Particularly Florida State and Clemson, schools that are already fed up with the ACC’s bottom line without adding to the revenue disparity between the conference and its top competitors.

Because as prohibitive as the price tag might sound, and it is high, it’s still pennies on the dollar compared to the cost should the suit go to trial and the NCAA lose.

“There’s obviously been a lot of discussion about that among the ACC presidents and chancellors and, of course, around the country more broadly,” North Carolina’s interim chancellor Lee Roberts told members of the media following a recent Board of Trustees meeting dedicated to the school’s athletic program. “I do believe that most folks think settling the litigation is going to be better than taking it through to a trial.”

That’s a prudent decision considering the NCAA’s record in court cases since the O’Bannon decision in 2015 is the same as Charlie Brown’s success rate at kicking a football when held by his nemesis Lucy. Rolling the dice and playing out the suit to a conclusion could legitimately turn that $2.8 billion settlement into $5-6 billion hit with one stroke of a gavel.

Settling is a little like shelling out $500 you can’t really afford to have a mechanic replace your brakes because you don’t want to risk totaling the car when those brakes fail.

You bite the bullet and write the check. Or in this case, let the NCAA write the check for you.
Money to pay for the settlement would be withheld directly from each conference’s expected annual distribution from the NCAA.

A portion of that distribution comes from the NCAA men’s basketball performance fund, which explains how the ACC can be on the hook for a greater percentage of the total Division I contribution (9.52% compared to 7.50%) than the more affluent SEC.

It’s not exactly fair. But the positives of the settlement still outweigh the negatives.

Most importantly, in the words of the NCAA’s Baker, it “creates a clarity and visibility on a whole bunch of issues that have been roiling everybody for a while.”

Signing off on the agreement, warts and all, would also give the ACC’s legal staff 1 less distraction on which to spend their time and billable hours.

With those other 2 lawsuits to defend, they already have enough on their plate to stay busy.