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Clemson Tidbits: Permanent Football Rivals, ACC TV Revenue, Saban-Fisher Feud

What’s the latest with Clemson’s three big sports programs?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 09 Clemson Spring Game Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Relatively speaking it has been a disappointing year for Clemson’s three primary sports (football, basketball, and baseball). The football team missed the playoff for the first time since 2014, the basketball was never really in tournament contention, and the baseball team is fighting for life to crack the NCAA tournament field. While soccer delivered a national championship and softball is making a nice run, my focus is always on the big three so let’s hit a couple topics related to them.

Football

I recently wrote about the ACC’s likely move to dissolve divisions and assign each team three permanent rivals they’d play annually. That would allow them to play the remaining 10 teams every other year and visit their stadium at least once per four years. I think this is a huge upgrade for two reasons. Firstly, getting more variety adds interest to the schedule. Secondly, some of the current Atlantic division opponents are not good fits for Clemson’s schedule, namely Syracuse and Boston College. They are private schools far away that don’t have major football followings. There are some somewhat interesting BC/Clemson ties with the O’Rourke-McFadden Trophy, but it is at least a little forced. Getting fewer games against them (and Wake Forest) and more against Miami, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina makes the season more fun.

Here’s where I think the ACC should start with permanent rival assignments:

ACC Permanent Rivals

Team Permanent Rival #1 Permanent Rival #2 Permanent Rival #3
Team Permanent Rival #1 Permanent Rival #2 Permanent Rival #3
Miami Florida State Boston College Virginia Tech
Florida State Miami Clemson Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech Clemson Florida State Duke
Clemson Georgia Tech Florida State NC State
Wake Forest Duke NC State Louisville
Duke Wake Forest UNC Georgia Tech
UNC NC State Duke Virginia
NC State UNC Wake Forest Clemson
Louisville Virginia Syracuse Wake Forest
Virginia Tech Virginia Pittsburgh Miami
Virginia Virginia Tech Louisville UNC
Pittsburgh Boston College Syracuse Virginia Tech
Boston College Syracuse Pittsburgh Miami
Syracuse Boston College Pittsburgh Louisville

On another note, the ACC released the financial figures for the TV deal. There’s good news and bad news and it speaks to the rapidly evolving nature of college football:

ACC revenue has more than tripled since 2011, and this latest bump is the league’s biggest since a 23.9% increase in 2016-17. The average distribution to the conference’s 15 schools, $36.1 million, is also a record... (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

We constantly hear that the ACC is falling behind, but that seems like plenty of money and is the most the conference has hauled in. The reason is because the SEC and Big Ten are lapping the field:

As USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz reported, the SEC’s 2020-21 revenue was $833 million, with an average per-school distribution of $54.6 million. Big Ten shares ranged from $43.1 million to $49.1 million, Big 12 $34.7 million to $36.5 million.

Most cautious among the Power Five conferences during the pandemic, the Pacific 12 distributed an average of $19.8 million to its schools.

‘The television disparity is what it is,’ Miami athletic director Dan Radakovich said last week at the ACC’s spring meetings, where revenue enhancement was a primary topic. ‘It’s been disparate for a long time. Now the numbers will just get a little bit bigger, potentially.’

Fortunately, the ACC has landed a deal with Comcast to get the ACCN carried and is working with ESPN on more sponsorships so those figures may continue to rise. Meanwhile, the Big 12 is likely to see a significant dip in the coming years with Texas and Oklahoma leaving, even though their replacements (Cincinnati, BYU, UCF, and Houston) are quite strong. The Pac-12 really hurt themselves with their COVID cancelations, but that’s more of an excuse than the primary reason. They need USC to become nationally relevant. Right now, they’re the least interesting, least relevant conference of the Power 5 pending USC making noise with Lincoln Riley.

For Clemson, I don’t know how long they can keep battling with Georgia, Alabama, and Texas A&M when they’re pulling in almost $20 million less per year in TV revenue. There’s also rumors that the new Big Ten deal could net each school close to $70 million per year, nearly double that of the ACC. We’ll see if that actually comes to fruition. This — along with NIL and pay-for-play under the guise of NIL — are the biggest structural challenges Clemson faces over the next decade.

Speaking of Alabama and Texas A&M, Coach Saban had some out-of-character comments when he essentially said Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M cheated to beat them in recruiting. He said they “bought every player.” He further said that they didn’t but they may have to start with the way the game is changing.

Remember, Saban gave the same sort of warning about no-huddle offenses that he thought were bad for the sport. He resisted for a bit and then made the change and quickly had the best tempo offense in the country. He said the same about NIL and then his QB got $1 million in NIL deals. Now he is warning the football world about this pay-for-play racket that is hidden as NIL. Hopefully the NCAA is serious about starting to enforce this, but they may be too feckless to stop it. If so, expect Alabama to start throwing money at kids through “NIL” collectives.

Jimbo Fisher was extremely upset and defended his program against the accusations. Coach Swinney was in a similar spot when NC State’s Dave Doeren accused him of cheating with the use of a laptop on the sideline, so I don’t really blame Jimbo for his reaction:

Basketball

Clemson lost both Nick Honor (to Missouri) and Al-Amir Dawes (to Seton Hall) in the transfer portal this off-season. They also lost David Collins and Naz Bohannon to graduation. Interestingly, Naz signed with an NFL team:

They had landed Jaelin Llewellyn from Princeton, which seemed like an upgrade, but he backed out. They went into the portal and added Brevin Galloway, the brother of former Clemson tight end Braden Galloway. Brevin is actually Braden’s older brother at 24 years old and will be 25 for most of the basketball season. He started his collegiate career at the College of Charleston before transferring to Boston College. I love the family connection. It is very on-theme with the “Clemson Family” mantra, but Brevin was a very inefficient shooter at Boston College. He took 172 3-pointers and only made 25.6% of them. His effective field goal percentage was just 40.2%. No player on Clemson last season shot as many 3-pointers, had as low of a 3-point percentage, or as low of an effective field goal percentage. It’ll be interesting to see if Brownell can shape his game to be a fit for what they’re trying to do.

In the 2022 class, the Tigers added Dillon Hunter who is the brother of Chase Hunter and a high three-star recruit. They’ll have to figure out some depth issues with the guards, but as of now, Chase Hunter, Alex Hemenway, and the two incoming players just mentioned figure to play important roles. We’ll see if they’re able to make any more transfer portal splashes before the season begins.

With the very fortunate return of super senior PF Tyson Hunter, the Tigers will have one of the best front courts in the ACC with him and PJ Hall along with some good depth behind them. Hopefully they have enough quality guard play to take advantage.

Baseball

The Tigers barely squeaked into the ACC tournament as the 12-seed. They’re in the pool with 1-seed Virginia Tech and 8-seed North Carolina. Tournament play begins on Tuesday against UNC at 7pm.

According to D1 baseball, Clemson is the ultimate NCAA tournament team. They list Clemson as the absolute last team in. The Tigers need a good showing in the ACC tournament or their season is likely over. If that’s the case, Graham Neff will have some tough decisions for the first time as Athletic Direction.


We touched on quite a few topics in this one. Sound off in the comments section below. We love to hear your thoughts.