Rewriting Conference Realignment History

What if the Syracuse Orange Had Joined Rival Boston College in the ACC's First Round of Expansion?

What if Syracuse Had Joined Rival Boston College in the ACC’s First Round of Expansion?

If you’ve checked out today’s daily links, you’ve likely noticed the top story from Syracuse.com, with regard to a little revisionist realignment history. The piece, “Syracuse is About to Join the ACC, But What if SU Had Made the Move 10 Years Ago?” enlists a variety of folks to take a look at what might have been if Syracuse had left the Big East for the ACC along with Boston College and Miami, as originally planned. It’s a very worthwhile read, though I did want to dive a bit deeper into some of the points, and bring up a few points of contention as well. Again, definitely enjoyed the article, but I do think some of the decisions seem to forget the timeline of all these things and the motivations of certain leagues, in particular. Taking a look at their timeline…

Move 1: Boston College, Miami and Syracuse depart Big East for ACC (2004)

No qualms here — obviously this is the decision that gets the ball rolling.

Move 2: Virginia Tech departs Big East for SEC (undetermined)

Unsure when this move takes place, but I’d venture to guess not immediately after the first round of expansion above. The further away from that point in time we get, I’d agree, the more likely this happens. Though I’d also bet that if it hadn’t happened by about 2010 or so, the Hokies end up in the ACC.

Move 3: Texas A&M departs Big 12 for SEC (2010)

This almost happened in real life, and would end up coming to fruition a year later anyway. No surprise here.

Move 4: Missouri departs Big 12 for Big Ten (2010)

… And here’s where I bring up an issue. The dominoes started falling in 2010 when the Big Ten announced they were searching for a 12th member. I’d bet that even in this revised timeline, that’s still the case, meaning they’d get to move first. Their target was always Nebraska, and despite multiple overtures by Missouri, the Big Ten’s continually said no. So I’d probably adjust this to reflect the Huskers heading up to the B1G, instead of the Tigers.

Move 5: Texas and Oklahoma depart Big 12 for Pac-10 (2010)

Here’s another one where I’m at least partially confused. We all remember the first version of “OMG Pac-16!!!” but this hypothetical seems to forget the rest of it. Texas and Oklahoma weren’t going anywhere without Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. And what the hell happens to Colorado here? We never find out. I’m fine with hypotheticals — this is a college football blog after all — but I think the real-life motivations need to be accounted for with these moves. It also ignores the inherent issue the Pac-10/12 has with Texas: the Longhorn Network.

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ACC Issues Statement of Solidarity; But Does It Mean Anything?

Did the ACC's Statement of Solidarity Actually Mean Anything? Well...

Did the ACC’s Statement of Solidarity Actually Mean Anything? Well…

As was heavily documented yesterday, the ACC‘s Council of Presidents issued a joint statement of solidarity, expressing their desire to work together to continue building a stronger athletic conference. The statement, which was backed by all 11 current committed members and all four future members, read:

“We, the undersigned presidents of the Atlantic Coast Conference, wish to express our commitment to preserve and protect the future of our outstanding league. We want to be clear that the speculation about ACC schools in negotiations or considering alternatives to the ACC are totally false. The presidents of the ACC are united in our commitment to a strong and enduring conference. The ACC has long been a leader in intercollegiate athletics, both academically and athletically, and the constitution of our existing and future member schools will maintain the ACC’s position as one of the nation’s premier conferences.”

So while it’s great to see all of the conference’s schools appear united amidst increased talk of further Big Ten (or even Big 12) raids, does it actually hold any water?

Unfortunately for those of us who are rooting for the ACC’s survival, the answer may be a resounding no, based on similar statements in the past, by other leagues feeling the expansion pressure. A sampling:

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Conference Realignment: Examining the Effects on Teams After the Move (Part 2)

How Will Syracuse and Pittsburgh Fare Once They Move to the ACC in 2013?

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.

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Conference Realignment: Examining the Effects on Teams After the Move (Part 1)

Texas A&M’s Fared Pretty Nicely Since Moving From the Big 12 to the SEC, But Has Every Program Made Out As Well?

There was lots of discussion this spring about teams jumping conferences… Lots of discussion! TCU and West Virginia actually did make the move to the Big 12, and there were rumors about Florida State and Clemson jumping ship as well. But for those who actually changed conferences, was it the right move? From a broader view, how has it worked out in general for teams which have changed conferences in recent years? Can even the best “mid-major” teams survive the so-called “grind” of a major conference schedule?

In the distant past (i.e. before 1990), when a team changed conferences it was generally to join one which was a better academic or geographic fit. Think Georgia Tech leaving the SEC to eventually join the ACC (via independence), or South Carolina doing the reverse. Today it’s a different story. Money generated by athletics has grown to the point where a school will actually consider joining a conference which is further away in order to grab yet more money. Imagine that – major universities motivated by money!

So we’ve seen several teams shift to/from major conferences in the past couple years:

  • Nebraska: from Big 12 to Big Ten
  • Utah: from Mountain West to Pac-12
  • Colorado: from Big 12 to Pac-12
  • Texas A&M: from Big 12 to SEC
  • Missouri: from Big 12 to SEC
  • TCU: from Mountain West (by way of Big East) to Big 12
  • West Virginia: from Big East to Big 12

Obviously there’s a pattern here, as one conference (Big 12) has been involved in the majority of these moves. But I digress…

How did these teams fare after the conference changes, though? To answer that, let’s look at before & after win/loss numbers in-conference and overall:

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Conference Realignment: Which BCS Schools Have a Right to Complain About Their League?

Which Teams Have Severely Outperformed Their Conference-mates Over the Past Five Seasons?

Though conference realignment talk has simmered a bit over the past week, it’s still a hot topic in the back of everyone’s heads as we await news on what the college football playoffs will look like. Teams like Florida State claim they pull more than their own weight when it comes to the product on the field in the ACC. But there’s also plenty of other schools that either fail to do so, or consistently do so, yet are mum on the subject. This is where our debate starts today.

We’ve broken down each of the six current “BCS conferences,” calculating the average wins over the last five years on both a per-conference, and per-school basis. While wins aren’t the only factors in conference realignment, the thought is that actual football performance may still matter somewhat in the game of “who brings the most televisions to market” — or at least that’s what we hope. As a forewarning, for some this exercise was a point of validation (Oregon, Alabama, in particular), while for others it was a sobering glance at ineptitude (Washington State and Syracuse, to name a few). Enjoy… Continue reading

The ACC’s Tobacco Road Favoritism

Has Tobacco Road Favoritism Been Detrimental to the ACC? Clemson (and Florida State) Would Say Yes

Last September, the ACC’s addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh was met with a collective “meh” from the league’s football schools. But despite the seemingly lackluster performances of the conference’s new members, their joining was generally interpreted as a sign that the ACC was stable and strong. While the Big East and the Big 12 were facing threats to their very existence, the ACC’s place was secure. It was a conference that people wanted to join, not one threatened by exodus.

Less than a year later, a fresh round of rumors would have us believe that the conference’s collapse is imminent. The football-first schools are supposedly on their way to the Big 12, setting the scene for four power conferences which would line up nicely with the impending four-team playoff. The Big Ten and the SEC might pick up some of the detritus, leaving the league’s weaker schools to fend for themselves.

The culprit is Tobacco Road, or at least the idea of Tobacco Road. The Big 12’s loss of Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and especially Texas A&M was driven by resentment at Texas’ dominance of the league. In a similar way, some ACC schools, especially Clemson and Florida State, begrudge the conference’s domination by the four North Carolina schools, especially Duke and UNC.

It’s no secret that Tobacco Road’s influence in ACC decision-making is disproportionate to the Carolina schools’ numbers. The ACC is a basketball-first conference, after all, and with flagship programs like Duke and North Carolina, numbers three and four on the all-time wins list, it’s understandable that their voices would be louder. ACC football has been an afterthought for most of the conference’s history, apart from brief national runs by Maryland in the 1950s and Clemson in the 1980s, and Florida State’s roughshod run over all competition during the 1990s. Continue reading

College Football Playoffs: Negative Impacts for ACC, Orange Bowl

To the ACC, a College Football Playoff May Seem Great, Until the League Takes a Look at the Disadvantage It's Dealt

As we’ve detailed before, a college football playoff is happening. There’s no turning back, and the most likely outcome is a four-team “event” matching the top four teams at neutral locations. The twist now, is whether they’ll implement the “Mandel Plan” — a design that gives a slight nod to its possible architect, Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel. Under the “Mandel Plan,” the two semifinal matchups are played at the traditional conference bowl tie-in sites of the one- and two-seeds, respectively. The theory goes that this preserves the bowls (the Rose Bowl would still host at least one of the Pac-12/Big Ten champs, unless they were the third and fourth seeds) and ensures higher seeds aren’t forced to “host” games in hostile environments.

For the five power leagues, this all would make perfectly equitable sense… if everything were perfectly equitable, that is. A look at how the four-team playoff would have been set up over these past 14 years, using the BCS standings as our ranking tool (a revised version of the same rankings will probably be deciding the actual playoff participants, albeit under a different moniker): Continue reading