Yesterday we looked at teams who have recently switched conferences to see how well they have fared. We determined that the “big boys” like Nebraska and Texas A&M have done just fine. But some of the other schools who have made “lateral” moves – Colorado, Missouri — have had some difficulty adjusting. Finally, the teams which have “moved up” in competition — West Virginia from the Big East and former “mid-major” teams like Utah and TCU — have struggled with the grind of their new “power conference” schedules.
So, what can Pittsburgh and Syracuse expect next year when they move to the ACC? I don’t think anyone would suggest that the ACC is as big a step up for them as the Big 12 was for West Virginia, but will they expect to struggle for awhile?
To get an idea what to expect, let’s look at the last time a Big East team joined the ACC. In fact, let’s look at the last three, since they all switched in a two-year period: Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College.
Oddly enough, VaTech actually performed better after the move. Looking at the seasons just prior to the move, it seems to me that the Hokies were simply in a down year their last season in the Big East. By contrast, Miami declined by one win in-conference and by two wins overall that same year.
Boston College joined the ACC the following season, with results virtually identical to their Big East performance: One more conference win was offset by one more loss, and the overall record remained exactly the same.
Since that time, the Hokies have maintained a level of excellence in football until this year. Miami suffered a decline shortly after joining the ACC, but now seems to be on the way back. Boston College enjoyed a couple of years of double-digit victories with Matt Ryan at quarterback, but is currently in last place in their division.
Here are the trend charts:
Conclusions? It seems to be a mixed bag as far as new ACC teams go. Why the difference when compared to other conference transfer? I think part of it is geography. When Virginia Tech and Miami joined the ACC, they were actually switching from geographic outliers to a conference that made more sense, both for travel distance and for recruiting territory (though Miami may have had to adjust some of their recruiting territory outside of South Florida). BC has had to travel a little further, though that will improve significantly starting next season. By contrast, teams like Colorado and West Virginia now travel further than before (WVU, very much so).
Also, we shouldn’t underestimate the time required to build new recruiting connections. WVU was formerly accustomed to regularly playing games in the state of Florida, where they found success recruiting players. Now the Mountaineers do not play a single game in Florida, and likely will need to establish new contacts in Texas. I wouldn’t expect either Pittsburgh or Syracuse to have these kind of problems in the ACC, since their recruiting territory won’t change much at all.
Bottom line: while I would expect West Virginia to go through several years of growing pains, I think Pittsburgh and Syracuse should be able to “hit the ground running,” and (hopefully) the added revenue will enable those teams to return to their former football glory… something the ACC sorely needs.
Read more from Hokie Mark over at ACCFootballRx, where he gives his prescription for fixing what ails the ACC on the gridiron.