UConn, Cincinnati lose the most as a result of ACC’s grant of rights deal

UConn and Cincinnati are both hoping their tenure as members of the American Athletic Conference is short enough that their fans won't need to get accustomed to the new name.

That possibility looks increasingly unlikely, however, now that one of their potential AAC escape routes may have slammed shut.

The ACC announced Monday that its 15 current or future members have signed a grant of rights deal effectively tethering them to the league until 2027. In a grant of rights deal, if an ACC school were to accept membership in another conference, the ACC would receive its media rights payments from the new league.

Since no school is going to willingly fork over tens of millions of dollars a year in TV revenue to bolt from the ACC, that all but ensures talk of Florida State joining the Big 12 or Virginia joining the Big Ten is dead for the foreseeable future. As a result, the ACC will have no need to add new members like a UConn or Cincinnati unless it decides to expand beyond 15 member schools at a later date.

UConn and Cincinnati have been angling for inclusion in the ACC since it became clear the Big East was beginning to disintegrate when Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia left the league. The ACC bypassed both the Huskies and Bearcats in favor of Louisville in November when the league sought a replacement for Big Ten-bound Maryland.

What makes the AAC unappealing to both schools is the large number of non-brand name schools who received invitations to the league to keep it afloat in Division I football. Neither UConn nor Cincinnati is wild about sharing a conference with the likes of Tulane, Tulsa, East Carolina and SMU.

If UConn and Cincinnati are stuck in the AAC for the time being, that's good news for the other basketball pillars of that new league.

Now Memphis and Temple, in particular, can feel more confident they'll be sharing a league with two other high-profile basketball schools with similar national aspirations to their own. The bottom of the AAC will be a train wreck basketball-wise until some of the newer schools can elevate their programs, but at least the top will feature four perennial powers.

It's possible other escape routes will emerge for UConn or Cincinnati in future years. Maybe the Big Ten will eventually come calling. Perhaps the Big 12 will one day decide 10 schools isn't enough.

But the truth is the ACC was the league that made the most sense for both schools from a competitive, financial and geographic standpoint. They lost out to realignment winner Louisville six months ago, and now it seems that may have been their final chance for a while.

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