Cal, Stanford ditch flailing Pac-12 for Atlantic Coast Conference

Cal Day 2023. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

A collegiate sports conference on the East Coast is extending its reach all the way to the West Coast after it announced Friday that the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University will join.

The two Bay Area universities, well-known for academics, will join the Atlantic Coast Conference, which includes schools such as Clemson University, University of Notre Dame, University of North Carolina, and Duke University. Also joining the ACC will be Southern Methodist University, which makes its home in Dallas.

The move comes following the implosion of the Pacific-12 Conference, the previous home of UC Berkeley and Stanford.

“This is a significant day for the ACC as we welcome Cal, SMU, and Stanford to this incredible conference,” said University of Virginia president James Ryan, chair of the ACC Board of Directors, in a statement. “This expansion will enhance and strengthen the league now and in the future.”

The end of the Pac-12 Conference started last year when the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Southern California left for the Big Ten conference. Before Cal and Stanford joined the ACC, the Pac-12 was down to four teams, which also included Oregon State University and Washington State University. A conference needs at least eight teams to exist.

UC Berkeley officials said the university’s move follows significant conference realignment in recent years. For UC Berkeley, the move will help provide elite competition for its students athletically and help the university financially. No athletic conference has won more NCAA championships in the last two years than the ACC.

“We are very pleased with the outcome, which will support the best interests of our student-athletes and aligns with Berkeley’s values,” said UC Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ in a statement. “We are confident that the ACC and its constituent institutions are an excellent match for our university and will provide an elite competitive context for our student-athletes in this changing landscape of intercollegiate athletics,” Christ added.

Stanford University president Richard Saller said, “Student-athletes come to Stanford to pursue their highest academic and athletic potential, and joining the ACC gives us the ability to continue offering them that opportunity at a national level.”

With the addition of Cal, Stanford and SMU, the ACC will have 18 teams.

The ACC’s three new teams will begin competing against the conference’s current schools starting in the next academic year.

“We are thrilled to welcome three world-class institutions to the ACC, and we look forward to having them compete as part of our amazing league,” ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said in a statement.

“Throughout the evaluation process, the ACC Board of Directors, led by President (James) Ryan, was deliberate in prioritizing the best possible athletic and academic experience for our student-athletes and in ensuring that the three universities would strengthen the league in all possible ways,” Phillips added.

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