What do the new guys bring to the ACC?
Posted October 1, 2011
Ever since the Atlantic Coast Conference officially admitted Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the league a couple of weeks ago, the reaction has been kind of mixed. If you are a fan of the ACC, you have to be intrigued by the move, even if you are not a fan of conference expansion.
We all understand the reasons behind the move, but now its time to take a look at what the newest members of the family bring to the table as far as what we will see on the field and the court.
The ACC is now solidified as the top basketball conference in America. Many long-time observers will claim that has been the case all along, but in the real world, the ACC as a whole has taken a backseat to the Big East for a few years now.
By bringing in 'Cuse and Pitt, the ACC not only struck a major blow to their main competition in hoops, they simultaneously started the chain of events which will most likely lead to that league's destruction.
The Big East is on the ropes, regardless of what Commissioner John Marinatto says. Their remaining football -playing members are openly flirting with other conferences, and when they leave, most of them will take pretty good basketball programs with them.
Meanwhile, the ACC, which already has arguably the two top hoops programs in the country in UNC and Duke, will add one of the banner programs from the Big East in the Orange, and a dynamic young coach in Jamie Dixon that has made the Panther program nationally relevant.
Over the last 10 years, the two programs have won 62.7 percent of their NCAA Tournament games (27-16), have combined for eight Sweet 16 appearances, and the Orange won a national championship in that stretch. Those numbers stack up favorably against any pair of ACC schools in that same time frame not named Duke and North Carolina.
But what about football? Isn't that what this realignment stuff all about? Absolutely it is.
While this move does not put ACC football anywhere near the top of the heap, I stop short of saying that it hurts the conference's gridiron perception.
It's been a rough stretch for Syracuse football over the last decade. The Orange have made only three bowl appearances since 2001, winning just 39 percent of their games in that time. However, there are signs of life in the program, as 'Cuse won 8 games, including the Pinstripe Bowl in 2010, and have started this year 3-2.
When we look at the recent history of the Pitt program, we find a 60.4 winning percentage (75-49), seven bowl appearances, including a BCS bowl appearance in 2004 when the Panthers claimed the Big East championship. Not exactly LSU or Florida-type numbers, but certainly respectable, and actually on-par or better than the majority of the ACC in that same time.
It is also important to keep in mind that this move was not the end-game. It was a move to show that the ACC is going to be proactive as we enter this new era of college athletics, because regardless of what league commissioners and school presidents are saying right now, the age of the 16-team "Super-conference" is coming, and it will be here sooner rather than later.
Much like in football, where you oftentimes run one play to set up another, John Swofford has made his first move. He has baited the hook to maybe draw the attention of a bigger football-playing fish.
Maybe one that has been swimming in its own pond for a while...in the neighborhood of South Bend, Indiana.