Seeking to solidify its membership following Maryland's decision to depart for the Big Ten, the Atlantic Coast Conference said Monday that 15 current or future members have signed documents granting the conference their media rights for the foreseeable future.
The agreements, effective immediately and extending until at least 2027, according to reports, were viewed by ACC members as a powerful means of promoting stability. Like many conferences, the ACC has been rocked by the imminent departure of a member — Maryland is leaving next year — and rumors that more defections could occur.
Duke athletic director Kevin White called the announcement "monumental."
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"Historically speaking, this is nothing short of a lasting 'game changer' for the ACC's colleges and universities," White said in a statement posted on the university's athletics Web site.
The agreements were signed by the current ACC members except Maryland, which negotiated a deal last year to join the Big Ten, effective in July 2014. Maryland had no comment Monday on the announcement by the ACC, which has a long-term broadcast partnership with ESPN.
Maryland is in a legal skirmish with the conference over the school's contention that the exit fee of more than $52 million is unreasonable and punitive.
The agreements mean that the conference will retain broadcast rights if a member leaves, making moves unlikely.
"These are strong and definitive moves by the ACC and its member schools to further announce our desire to stay together and position ourselves among the top conferences in the country," North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham said.
The agreements were also signed by Syracuse and Pittsburgh — which are joining the ACC in time for the next football season — and by Louisville, which is joining in 2014. Notre Dame, which becomes a member this year in all sports but football, also signed.
Monday's announcement "further highlights the continued solidarity and commitment by our member institutions," ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. "The Council of Presidents has shown tremendous leadership in insuring the ACC is extremely well positioned with unlimited potential."
Virginia has long been considered a good fit for the Big Ten, but athletic director Craigh Littlepage repeatedly denied the rumors.
"My answer was always the same: 'There's no merit,' " Littlepage said, "I've never wavered in the belief that the Atlantic Coast Conference was the best place for the University of Virginia, and I know there were a lot of other ADs that felt the same thing."
Duke University men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski called the announcment by the ACC, "one of the great days in the history of our conference."
"It shows the highest level of commitment — not by words, but by actions," said Krzyzewski, perhaps the conference's most-visible representative, in a statement released on the school's website. "With all the uncertainty regarding conference affiliations the past several years in college athletics, this announcement, coupled with our media rights deal with the world's best sports broadcasting network, secures the ACC's future, and thus Duke's, for years to come."
Tribune Newspaper Co. reports contributed to this story.