After a 23-year run, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge will not take place after the 2022-2023 season. The annual premier inter-conference event is falling victim to new conference media rights agreements and a vengeful ESPN Network that owns the rights to the event via its ESPN Events arm, but not any media rights of the Big Ten beginning in 2023.
Andy Katz of the Big Ten Network, NCAA.com and other news outlets was the first to break the story.
1/2 Breaking: ESPN will announce today the @B1GMBBall-@accmbb Challenge will end this week after 23 years and the @Big12Conference-@SEC Challenge will conclude in January after a 10-year run. A new ACC-SEC Challenge for men and women will start the week after Thanksgiving 2023.— Andy Katz (@TheAndyKatz) November 28, 2022
2/2Shout out to ESPN Programming and @ESPNEvents team for decades of hard work on these challenges. New media rights agreements made it difficult to continue current structure. Opens door for a new conference challenge with @B1GMBBall @Big12Conference to occur if mutual interest.— Andy Katz (@TheAndyKatz) November 28, 2022
ESPN Events started the annual challenge between the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big Ten Conference back in 1999 and the challenge has been a smashing success ever since. It even survived the COVID-19 pandemic’s scheduling cutbacks in 2020, though some games were still impacted.
There have bee many attempts to duplicate the success of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Those include the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series (2007–2010), SEC/Big East Challenge (2007–2012), Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge (2009–2018), Big 12/SEC Challenge (2013–present), Big East/Big 12 Battle (2019–present), and the Gavitt Tipoff Games between the Big Ten and Big East (2015-2022). A similar women’s basketball challenge also started for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in 2007 to the present, though the event did not take place in 2020 and neither league nor ESPN offered any explanation for the glaring gender discrimination in that decision.
While the results will not be known for 2022 until later this week, the Big Ten enters the 2022 challenge with an insurmountable deficit to the ACC of 8-12-3. The ACC won the first 10 challenges, but since then the Big Ten has gone 8-2-3, including three-straight wins dating back to 2019.
Just four teams for the Big Ten have a winning record (Purdue, Penn State, Minnesota, Wisconsin). A loss by Penn State this year to Clemson would result in the Nittany Lions ending the series with a .500 record, while Rutgers has an opportunity to end with a winning record should the Scarlet Knights get a victory over Miami (FL.) on Wednesday. Ohio State and Nebraska both have a chance to end the event with a .500 record should the teams beat their respective opponent. Maryland is currently 1-7 in the event as a member of the Big Ten, but went 10-5 as a member of the ACC.
Michigan State will also end the annual event with a losing record (currently 9-12) regardless of the outcome at Notre Dame on Wednesday night. The Spartans have played every year since 1999 with the exception of 2020 when the opponent (Virginia) suffered an outbreak of COVID-19 and had to postpone and eventually cancel. MSU’s game in 2001 against Virginia on a neutral court in Richmond, Virginia was also canceled at halftime due to condensation issues on the court. MSU went 8-3 in East Lansing, 1-8 on the road and 0-1 on a neutral court setting at Ford Field against North Carolina in 2009.
The SEC/Big 12 Challenge will also be ending this year. That will be the case so that the ACC and the the Southeastern Conference (SEC) can begin a new challenge in 2023 in both men’s and women’s basketball. Both the ACC Network and SEC Network are owned by ESPN and the network will be the sole owner of SEC media rights beginning in 2024.
ESPN, @theACC & @SEC announce the formation of ACC/SEC men's & women's basketball challenges— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) November 28, 2022
14 #NCAAMBB games & 14 #NCAAWBB games to debut in the '23-'24 season
Each of the 28 games (30 starting in '25-'26) will be carried on an ESPN platform
Fox currently owns a controlling stake in the Big Ten Network and is the primary rights holder for Big Ten. A new media rights deal for the Big 12 will also result in Fox owning a large portion of Big 12 basketball rights as well. Some fans have already begun calling for a new Big Ten/Big 12 challenge, but no official word has been released.