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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

10 key dates for college sports: From the House case and Pac-12 departures to the ACC’s deadline and the expanded CFP

By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

College sports have undergone a breathtaking transformation in recent years with conference realignment, playoff expansion, unlimited transfers and name, image and likeness payments.

The whirlwind shows no sign of abating.

Here are 10 key dates on the calendar for the next 12 months.

Thursday : House settlement deadline

The NCAA and the Power Five conferences are the named defendants in an antitrust lawsuit, filed by former Arizona State swimmer Grant House, that carries an estimated $2.7 billion in damages. Their solution: Negotiate a settlement with the plaintiffs that revolutionizes college sports by requiring the major football-playing schools to share roughly $20 million annually with athletes. The plaintiffs have imposed a Thursday deadline for the conferences to approve the settlement terms and avoid a trail the NCAA would assuredly lose. Of note: Presidents of the departing and remaining Pac-12 schools will vote together.

May 30: Early season kickoff times revealed

At the end of the month, ESPN, Fox and other networks scheduled to broadcast games in 2024 are expected to release the kickoff times for the first three weeks of the regular season and any special date (i.e., Friday) games. This is standard fare, with a twist: How will the networks slot games with the new conference configurations? (The Hotline is particularly interested in how many Friday games are assigned to Oregon and Washington.) Kickoff times for all Saturday games starting with Week 4 (Sept. 21) will be released during the season, either one or two weeks in advance.

June 30: Pac-12 Networks go dark

One of the greatest strategic errors in college sports history fades to black at 11:59 p.m., when the Pac-12 Networks’ distribution contracts (with Comcast, Dish, etc.) expire and the media company wholly owned by the 12 schools ceases to exist. Pac-12 Enterprises, the conference’s cutting-edge production unit, will live on. Based in San Ramon, California, and under new leadership, Pac-12 Enterprises will handle home-game production demands for Washington State and Oregon State throughout the 2024-25 competition season.

July 1: SMU enters the ACC

The Mustangs will become an official member of the ACC at the start of the fiscal year. Their arrival is notable on several levels, topped by the financial commitment: SMU agreed to enter the ACC for free. It won’t accept any TV revenue from the conference, a move rooted in desperation that has helped establish a new paradigm in the realignment game.

Aug 2: The ‘Pac-10’ schools depart

The 10 outbound schools are official members of the Pac-12 through Aug. 1, according to the terms of their negotiated settlement with Washington State and Oregon State. Of course, the transitions to new conferences will be mere formalities by that point. But it’s worth noting that the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 will hold their football media extravaganzas in July, before the 10 schools are actually members. (Another quirk: Athletes from the 10 schools competing in Paris will be members of the Pac-12 when the Olympics begin and members of their new conferences when the Olympics conclude.)

Aug. 15: ACC membership deadline

Each year, ACC schools have until the middle of August to inform the conference of their intent to depart the following academic year. Typically, that deadline comes and goes with little notice. But the lawsuits brought against the ACC by Clemson and Florida State have changed everything: Will the rebels commit to ACC membership for the 2025-26 school year by the deadline?

Aug. 24: Kickoff arrives

Speaking of Florida State: The Seminoles are involved in the first game of the 2024 season, against Georgia Tech in Ireland (9 a.m. Pacific on ESPN). There are several other games scheduled for what’s known as Week 0, while the regular season begins in force the following Thursday (Aug. 29). It will be a season like no other with all the changes resulting from realignment and the expanded, 12-team College Football Playoff.

Dec. 20-21: The expanded CFP

The 12-team playoff begins the weekend before Christmas with opening-round games featuring the No. 5-to-12 seeds. There will be one game on Friday, Dec. 20, followed by three on Dec. 21. The competition for eyeballs that Saturday will be fierce, as the NFL schedule released last week includes a major doubleheader (Texans vs. Chiefs and Steelers vs. Ravens) that is designed to marginalize the CFP.

Jan. 27, 2025: House trial date

If the conferences don’t reach a negotiated settlement with plaintiffs in the House lawsuit, the case heads to trial in late January with the future of the NCAA at stake. The presiding judge in the Northern District of California is Claudia Wilken, who decided the landmark O’Bannon case that started the NIL era. Because there are other antitrust lawsuits against the NCAA system – and because damages are tripled in class-action cases like House – a trial could result in bankruptcy for the NCAA.

February: ESPN option on ACC

The only thing holding the ACC together is a partnership with ESPN that runs through the spring of 2036. ESPN has the right to void the final nine years of the deal – and it must exercise that option by February. The network’s decision likely will be based on the likelihood of Clemson and Florida State remaining in the conference. If ESPN opts out, the ACC goes kaboom and another massive wave of realignment begins.