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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

SMU Raises Whopping $159 Million for Sports Ahead of ACC Move

  • The athletic department announced its 2023–24 fundraising numbers this week.
  • Boosters are a key part of SMU’s success going forward as it forgoes ACC media-rights revenue for nine years.
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The numbers are in, and SMU means business.

The Mustangs’ athletic department announced this week it reached a new fundraising record of $159 million during the 2023–24 fiscal year. Most of those funds were secured during the week following the Sept. 1 announcement that the school would move to the Atlantic Coast Conference. A whopping $100 million poured in during that week, largely thanks to a new group called the First Week Society, which launched a $125 million campaign.

SMU is one of three new additions to the ACC this fall as the conference expands far beyond its East Coast base. Pac-12 escapees Stanford and Cal will officially become ACC members Aug. 2, a month after SMU does July 1.

All three schools are taking a big financial risk in the move: Stanford and Cal are giving up 70% of media-rights revenue for seven years, while SMU won’t receive any of it for nine years. SMU got $9 million from American Athletic Conference revenue distributions in 2022–23, which is about the same amount the school will receive from the ACC’s non-media revenue. SMU boosters are going to cover a large part of the media-rights gap, paying out $200 million over those nine years (the annual roughly $22.2 million is less than the $30 million current member schools get). The ACC was reportedly worried SMU wouldn’t be able to keep up without those funds.

The school said a large amount of the new funds will go to a 192,500-square-foot football operations center and club space. It’s set to open for the upcoming football season, the team’s first in the ACC.

SMU said its football season-ticket sales are up more than 60% and also broke a stadium record.

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