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What are grant of rights contracts in U.S. college football & their impact on the institutions

American Football Stadium
Friday, 12 May 2023 By Drew Thornley

Nearly all major collegiate athletics conferences have a “Grant of Rights” (“GOR”) agreement with their respective American football-member institutions by which the latter grant the former exclusive media rights to game broadcasts.

A “Grant of Rights” is an agreement between a collegiate athletics conference (tournament organizer) and its respective members (the schools) where the members  “agree to transfer their media rights to their conference for a set period of time.”[1]

Central features of a GOR are:

  • exclusivity: a conference is granted full and exclusive broadcast rights from its members; and
  • fixed, long-term duration: the GOR states that the agreement will be effective for a set period that is customarily for several years.

However, contrary to what might be the popular belief, the GOR agreement is short document. The ACC’s GOR (“Atlantic Coast Conference Grant of Rights Agreement”) with ESPN[2], which expires in 2036[3], is three-and-a-half pages. The Big 12 Conference’s GOR (“Amended and Restated Grant of Rights Agreement”)[4], which expires on June 30, 2025[5], is just over four pages. The Pac-12 Conference’s GOR (“Media, Sponsorship and Digital Rights”)[6], which expires August 1, 2024[7], is just over one page. 

These GOR agreements last for a period of years; and should a conference member leave its conference prior to the expiration of its conference’s GOR, that member’s media rights remain with the conference until the end of the GOR period. As a result, leaving a conference before the end of a GOR period significantly reduces the value of a potentially-departing conference member to any other conference that wishes to add that institution to its conference.

So, how might a university leave its conference before the expiration of the conference’s GOR? This article explores:

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Written by

Drew Thornley

Drew Thornley

Drew is a Associate Professor of Legal Studies at Nelson Rusche College of Business, Stephen F. Austin State University



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