Some may have noticed the rumor mill got bored over the past 48 hours and decided it was time for another radical theory on conference realignment. Specifically, the ideas in question — brought to wider attention by SBNation’s From the Rumble Seat — toss out a couple of ideas with varying degrees of plausibility. We’ll discuss each one below:
Not only does this fail to really surprise me (or most readers), but I’d think the league dumb not to be actively pursuing one or both of these schools. While I may favor Connecticut as Notre Dame’s expansion partner, I suppose it doesn’t really matter all that much one way or the other. The part I’m kind of up in the air about though is ESPN’s involvement. Sure, they’ve been rumored to have fueled realignment (specifically the ACC’s) before, but like the last time this theory came across the board, how legitimate is this argument? ESPN has an invested interest in the Big East, so why dilute one product a lot to increase the other (the ACC) a little? As much as some want to believe the Syracuse and Pittsburgh move was a push by the “worldwide leader,” it’s tough to see them gaining too much from such a seedy transaction. The new rumor, however, does have some legs in this regard. An ACC Network (run by ESPN) with the three largest draws in the New York market (SU, Rutgers, Notre Dame) makes a lot of sense from a cable-carrier standpoint. Grabbing the Irish’s football games from NBC’s another reason ESPN stands to gain from such a move.
A couple problems with this one, obviously. First of all, as SBNation’s BC Interruption states: “This second rumor is built on a faulty premise: that the ACC is somehow a vulnerable or unstable conference.” If a school enjoys its lot in life, its rivals and its media deal (renegotiation forthcoming for the ACC), why would it leave? Further, if it had to pay $20 million to move on, what can really motivate you to go? Plus, as also brought up by BC Interruption, why would ESPN damage its own partner (the ACC) just to strengthen the other? And Maryland… I’m curious if the rumor mill’s taken a look at the state of the Terps right now. As for Tech, this would be more plausible if they were in the SEC, amongst schools below their academic caliber. But since they’re not, that can’t be the sell for them to leave the rivalries and legacy they’ve built in the ACC.
The second option also continues this theorized ACC doomsday by including NC State in SEC expansion rumors, along with Maryland. As Team Speed Kills said earlier today: “So apparently the SEC will get in a bidding war with the Big Ten over Maryland then?” If you keep reading at TSK, there is some info worth noting, however:
“NC State’s relationship with Duke and especially UNC is not that dissimilar from Texas A&M’s with Texas, so that saga could repeat itself if NCSU wants to get out of a shadow or two and be on its own. The SEC’s recent expansion moves were aimed at adding mid- to upper-tier schools from populous states without current SEC members, and you can see Maryland and NC State fitting that profile without too much squinting”
I’d be most scared of the NC State theory, which I believe has legs for the reasons above. What better way to get out from under your big brother’s shadow than to leave him? Of course, like many of the other ACC schools, there’s history and tradition and rivalries the Wolfpack would prefer not to give up, but for the right pile of cash, who knows.
For what it’s worth, I’d like to see the ACC continue to try and work Notre Dame into the fold behind the scenes, then see who jumps highest of Rutgers and Connecticut to secure themselves the 16th bid. Given the current state of the league, there’s no reason for John Swofford to suddenly make the process a messy affair. Let’s just go about our business as what we are — a strong league for academics, football and basketball — and let that speak for itself. Interested parties will request membership based on the better options they see with the ACC, and we won’t start running after schools just to bulk up our numbers. It’s the best way forward, and I’ll wait as long as it takes to get to 16 (or at least, until the SEC raids us).
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