Ken Medlin

For the ACC, the times are a-changing

Posted September 17, 2011

As Bob Dylan once said, “The times, they are a-changing.”

And it appears the ACC has admitted that the waters around it have grown, choosing to start swimming before it sinks like a stone. (OK, enough Bob D...)

Today’s reports that Syracuse and Pittsburgh have applied for membership in the Atlantic Coast Conference mark a major shift in the landscape of collegiate athletics.

A few initial thoughts on what seems to be the likely move of the Orange and Panthers to the ACC:

One: Basketball is served. Unlike the ACC’s last round of expansion, this would actually upgrade the conference in hoops. Imagine that...

Don’t get me wrong, I know the ACC’s not expanding for basketball purposes, but it’s a nice bonus to see two strong basketball schools on the way. Let’s face it, the ACC has long taken pride on being the preeminent basketball conference, but that reputation – outside of Duke and Carolina – has slipped in recent years. Adding Pitt and the ‘Cuse will help.

Two: This buys the ACC more time to “mess with Texas,” and possibly Notre Dame. The Longhorns and Irish are the trophy fish in the conference expansion ocean, and the ACC can now drop a few hooks.

The ideal scenario would bring both the Irish and ‘Horns in as full conference members with equal revenue sharing among all schools. But that’s not likely to happen.

Having said that, here’s a scenario: Invite Notre Dame and Texas as member schools for every sport except football, as long as they commit to playing four conference games each per season.

Both schools would continue to reap the rewards of their own television contracts as independents, and the value of the ACC’s broadcast rights would increase exponentially. Notre Dame and Texas are major draws nationally, and having eight of those games in the ACC’s package would give the conference major leverage for renegotiating with ESPN.

In this scenario, Notre Dame and Texas would receive no $$$ from the ACC’s football contract, but they would more than recoup those opportunity costs with their own networks.

Three: It’s time to junk the Atlantic and Coastal divisions for a more geographically-sensible alignment.

In a 14-team ACC football conference, we could see an alignment of:

North: BC, Syracuse, Pitt, Maryland, UVA, Va. Tech and Wake OR N.C. State
South: Duke, UNC, Clemson, Ga. Tech, FSU, Miami and Wake OR N.C. State

One Big Four school would have to go North. I’m scratching Carolina off that list purely because it would separate the Heels from Duke and NC State, which would create a scheduling headache for the conference office. The Duke-Carolina and State-Carolina games aren’t BOTH going away, but I can’t envision a scenario in which the conference would allow for more than one cross-divisional “permanent rival” per team.

Wake makes sense in that a Deacons move North would put all three Triangle-area teams in the same division, but there’s also the issue of competitive balance. Too much power lies in the South in that scenario, so it would make sense to move one of the better Big 4 football schools – State or Carolina – to the North. And since I’ve already ruled out Carolina, that makes NC State the best fit. Make State and Carolina “permanent rivals,” and the problem is solved.

Regardless, it appears major change is on the way for the ACC.


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  • oldfarmer59 Sep 19, 2011

    Why not have an ACC division and a Big East division? The ACC division would include the "Big 4", plus UVA, MD, and Clemson. Throw the rest of the "newbies" into the Big East division.

  • oldfarmer59 Sep 19, 2011

    If you want a more balanced 7 team split, then you should move one of the Florida schools to the northern division. This has the added benefit of keeping the "Big 4" teams in the same division and will preserve more of the traditional rivalries of the original ACC members.

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