Yesterday, SB Nation’s BC Interruption discussed the ACC‘s ability to stay intact, regardless of some conference realignment chatter around Florida State and the Big 12. If the league lost between one and four schools to a possible Big 12 (or B1G/SEC) raid, could it stay together? And if so, who sticks around, and who looks for the exits?
We’ll separate all 14 schools into categories first:
Leave Under Only the Worst Circumstances
Not Going Anywhere
Lumping the last two categories together, that leaves seven schools for certain (all of the academically prestigious — or at least that fact can be debated — institutions). As BC Interruption also rightfully points out, given how much trouble it took to get VPI into the ACC, they’re probably sticking around as well. A case can be made that of the other six, Miami and Maryland are most likely to stay since neither are in the best of situations right now (one’s facing a possible death penalty from the NCAA, while the other was dealt one when it brought on Randy Edsall — HIYO!). Additional arguments can of course be made for and against any of those first seven named above. But as things look right now, at worst four would leave.
If the four alluded to — FSU, Clemson, Georgia Tech and NC State — were to depart (first two to Big 12, second two to SEC), what would be the best course of action for the ACC going forward? If they stayed at 10 teams, they could play a nine-game round-robin schedule in football, sure. But similar to the questions the Big 12 is currently facing, they’d quickly realize that no league is safe until it gets to 12 teams (and even then, things are still up for debate, as we’re seeing right now). Which would once again lead to the expansion question.
Under the circumstances we laid out in the previous paragraph, let’s assume the SEC stopped at 16, while the Big 12 stopped at 14. The Big Ten’s expansion plans have been put on hold for some time now, and for some reason, I doubt they’ll end up adding anyone else. No school left out there is a true, natural fit, and no one’s ever raiding the B1G. So no need to grow past 12. As for the ACC, they’d parade out the four usual suspects (Notre Dame, Rutgers, Connecticut and Louisville), and likely invite them all.
A quick look at divisions:
North: Boston College, Connecticut, Maryland, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse
South: Duke, Louisville, MIami (FL), North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
The geographic North/South demarcation actually works out pretty well in the “new” ACC, keeping a competitive balance and maintaining every truly important rivalry. As for value, the conference would now own the New York market (earning over 40-percent with this contingent). Based on the Wall Street Journal‘s figures on each FBS team’s worth, the ACC would be trading Florida State (20th-most valuable), Clemson (27th), NC State (40th) and Georgia Tech (49th) for Notre Dame (fourth), Louisville (43rd), Connecticut (57th) and Rutgers (61st). It may look uneven, but keep in mind too that Notre Dame’s value at number four ($581.2M) is more than twice that of Florida State’s at 20 ($267M). Academically, the new 14-team ACC would now only house one school (Louisville) outside the top 75 in the U.S., versus four in the current setup.
So as Brian Favat put it in the BCI post that inspired this one: “The athletics, academics and yes, even the financials all make this 60-year old conference — a conference that has only grown over the years and lost all of one member — a stable and desirable one for a majority of programs.” No matter what happens, the ACC will survive, and may even find a way to be better off in the long-run, too.
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