College football: Conference realignment has hit a wall

After the musical chairs of the last three years, a little stability goes a long way. And now we might have a lot of stability, as long as the grant of rights schools are signing will hold up in court, and one expert says it should be solid.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 26, 2013
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photo - One way for the Big 12 to expand is to get a school on the outside looking in, like Boise State. AP photo
One way for the Big 12 to expand is to get a school on the outside looking in, like Boise State. AP photo

Conference realignment has hit a wall. Whether that's good news or bad depends on your side of the aisle, but either way, it is news.

After the musical chairs of the last three years, a little stability goes a long way. And now we might have a lot of stability.

Atlantic Coast Conference members have signed the grant of rights, which binds each school's television money to the conference, even if said school bolts for limier pastures.

With the Pac-12, Big Ten and Big 12 already having bolted such handcuffs, the ACC was the prime recruiting ground for prospects. The Big Ten grabbed Maryland. The Big 12 lusted after Florida State and Clemson. North Carolina and Virginia or Virginia Tech at least fit SEC parameters.

Now, if you want to expand, your choices are:

1. Raid the SEC. Good luck with that, though anyone interested ought to at least call miscast Missouri.

2. Get a school on the outside looking in. Connecticut, Boise State, Cincinnati, BYU.

3. Do it the American way. Take the conference to court. Try to get out of the grant of rights.

Truth is, universities (and their coaches) pay little attention to contracts and commitments. It's on the athletes to uphold some honor.

Maryland, for example, in 2012 voted to make the ACC exit penalty $52 million. Now the Terrapins are suing to get out of such a payment.

Which leads us to grant of rights. Is it binding? Will it hold up in court? If OU wanted to bolt for the SEC, or Kansas wanted to join the Big Ten, or Texas changed its mind about the Pac-12, would the grant of rights stick?

Instead of asking an administrator, I asked a lawyer. And not just any lawyer.

I asked Kent Meyers. Meyers is a longtime OKC attorney who is an expert in antitrust law and who 30 years ago was part of the legal team that successfully sued the NCAA over television rights. The famous Oklahoma/Georgia case, which stripped the NCAA of owning schools' television rights.

And Meyers says grant of rights should be solid.

“The grant of the rights is absolutely binding if it was papered up properly at the time,” Meyers said.

In other words, if the correct language was used and agreement was correctly received.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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