Reports: Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush backing Stanford, SMU as ACC calculates expansion 

The Atlantic Coast Conference appears to be looking at all options. 

And other programs are reportedly enlisting the “big guns” and voicing support for possible expansion moves. 

Not impacted by conference expansion despite the impending increases of the Big Ten to 18 programs in 2024 and the Big 12 and Southeastern conferences upping to 16 each, the ACC has a matter of addition and subtraction on its hands. 

According to Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated, Florida State has shown it likely is aiming for a departure from the ACC “as soon as feasible.” The Seminoles reportedly were among four to five ACC programs that voted against the additions of Pac-12 member schools Cal and Stanford, and also raised concern over revenue distribution when it comes to Florida State’s own possible expansion efforts to leave for another conference. 

Tuesday was the deadline for ACC programs to notify the conference of any departure decision for the 2024 season. The 2025 season, though, remains up in the air. 

According to Forde, it may not come as a surprise to anyone if Florida State formally notified the ACC of its departure ahead of the 2025 season “in a matter of days or weeks.” 

Connected well to Florida State is Clemson, according to Forde, which could follow the Seminoles in a number of directions. 

There “could be resistance” from SEC programs that rival Florida State and Clemson in-state that could stand in the way of the pair joining the conference, according to Forde. 

North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham “is a key administrator” among the programs opposed to adding schools near San Francisco such as Cal and Stanford, according to Forde. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has reached out to Cunningham in regards to discussing what “the diminishment of Stanford and Cal’s athletic programs would mean to the American Olympic movement.” 

In addition to Cal and Stanford’s efforts to join potentially the ACC or another conference, Southern Methodist University is also part of discussions. It was part of the ACC’s evaluations when it considered the potential membership of the three schools. 

According to Forde, the “big guns” being enlisted to help “lobby” the three programs to other conferences include Jerry Yang and Condoleezza Rice, who’s “making calls on behalf of Stanford,” and George W. Bush on behalf of SMU. 

A leadership call is scheduled for Wednesday among executives in the ACC, according to Forde. Expansion is sure to be a topic, just as it has been a persisting one across the Power 5 and all of college athletics during the past several years.