The phrase "round and round it goes, where it stops no one knows" seems to be about the only thing to accurately describe what the conference realignment merry-go-round ride of the past four or five years felt like. However, that may all be coming to an end thanks to the most unlikely of characters and scenarios.
According to reports the ACC's 15 full-member institutions agreed to a "grant of rights," meaning that the conference now controls the schools rights to television appearances for the rest of the contract period, which is 15 years in the case of the ACC membership.
What this means is this effectively ends the merry-go-round of conference realignment for the time being. The Big 12 can't poach FSU and Clemson and the Big Ten can't sink it's teeth into Virginia and Georgia Tech. Why? Well, who in their right mind would add a school who's TV rights they can't control?
After all, that's the biggest draw for conference realignment – the TV money it's membership can help generate.
Clearly exit fees weren't going to be an issue anymore – I mean Maryland jumped ship to the Big Ten despite the ACC's "crazy" $52 million exit fee – a fee that is being held up in court right now and the exact reason why the "grant of rights" was an extremely smart move.
Smart because we're talking about legal issues. In the case of the exit fee there are two tests that have to hold up in a court and are explained in the Sports Business Journal article linked above. The basic gist of why the exit fee doesn't hold teams up is this – the conference has a hard time proving they suffered damages equal to the exit fee by the school leaving, especially when you add a school of equal value upon them leaving.
So, the ACC is being pro-active from future poaching by other conferences and has basically put the membership on lockdown for the next 15 years. Perhaps this is the next "fad" in conference membership and as a fan the slower the merry-go-round of conference expansion and realignment goes the better off we are.
Of course this is the world of television and college athletics we are talking about and lord knows this probably isn't the last time we see things change on a dime this offseason, let alone in the next 15 years.