With the evolving landscape going on around the country, it’s always wise for any league to keep its options open on the expansion front. So regardless of whether or not Florida State (and possible friends) leave the ACC in the coming weeks, months or years, the conference should still be keeping tabs on who’s looking to make a move. Lucky for them, there are several possibilities, should they ever decide to pull the conference realignment trigger again. Specifically, we’re talking about Louisville.
Let’s review. In the past week-and-a-half, the following events have occurred:
- Big East commissioner John Marinatto was relieved of his duties, courtesy of a group of fed-up universities under his leadership
- The WAC — which houses Boise State‘s non-football sports — lost nearly every one of its teams
- As a result of those first two items, Boise State’s now getting a bit nervous about its move to the Big East, and may just abort the mission altogether
- And then all that Florida State business with the Big 12…
So as it stands, this appears to be the perfect storm for a Louisville program that’s suddenly the all-sports flag-bearer in an increasingly fractured Big East to restate its intentions to head elsewhere. Obviously they’ve broadcast some desire to mosey on over to the Big 12, but last week also dropped another potential landing place — the ACC.
But would the ACC want them? We took an at-a-glance look at the possibility shortly after the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse last fall, but things have changed a bit since then. Some up-front pros and cons:
- Successful football program, the likes of which is in demand for other conferences, too. This season, they’re the odds-on favorite to win the Big East over both Pitt and SU.
- If the ACC is looking for television markets, the Louisville metro area has seen some of the nation’s most consistent growth in jobs, population over the past 50 years.
- The basketball program ain’t too shabby either, having just played in the Final Four.
- U.S. News & World Report rates them number-164 overall. While these numbers are far from the end-all, be-all indicator, it’s a barometer new schools are usually held to in some form.
- Unproven as a national draw for football. And that’s something that’s unlikely to shake itself out until after an invite’s in the mail.
- They don’t help the ACC monopolize the New York marketplace for good, pushing out 32-year resident, the Big East.
– That last one is the key, unfortunately. Whether it’s for football or basketball, the current ACC measures itself on two things: how it looks against the Big East, and what chunk of the pie it’s getting in New York. It may seem like a misguided strategy (see Joel’s article from yesterday for more on the league’s leadership issues), but there’s some method (I’ll emphasize some) to this madness.
Most probably remember Nate Silver (538.com)’s piece on college football fans in New York last September. While it was an incredibly flawed study overall, it did put some numbers behind something most of us already sort of knew/assumed: New York City has a fractured fanbase with no clear favorite. Since this fact prevents the ACC from taking the “City’s team,” they’re forced to do the next-best thing by grabbing several teams that make up a significant market share. Silver’s study said the top five were Rutgers, Notre Dame, Penn State, Connecticut and Michigan, with Syracuse as the sixth-most popular, by percentage. Current members Boston College and Miami also appeared in the top 10, taking nearly five-percent of the overall share combined.
The point? Notre Dame values the New York market and its many millions of eyeballs. So it stands to reason that whichever league controls that market will eventually get its football services once it’s finally forced to join a league. If the ACC grabs Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights combine with SU, BC and Miami to take 30 percent of the nation’s largest media market. No other league comes close to that mark, which turns Rutgers — not Louisville or Connecticut — into the net that catches college football’s biggest fish, Notre Dame.
Now if FSU decides to pack up and leave, these arguments become null and void. Either they’ll join the ‘Noles in the Big 12, or they’ll receive an invite to the ACC along with ND, Rutgers and UConn. But until that next domino falls, don’t expect any movement. When it does happen though, keep an eye on those New York market figures.
Comment, share this post, follow the blog and follow @JohnCassillo on Twitter.