The ACC’s hopes to ever be a relevant football conference hangs in the balance right now while Florida State’s brain trust contemplates a divorce and remarriage with the Big 12.
Yes, the Big 12, erstwhile dead man walking for the past three seasons has the potential to deal a crippling blow to ACC football.
Because the Big 12 has to get to 12 teams if Florida State is in play. Which team would make an oustanding 12th? Miami. In one fell swoop the Big 12 could cut out the most valuable state in the ACC. Then we’re talking about a conference without a single national football game all season.
Seriously, what’s the “best” yearly ACC football game left?
Virginia Tech — Georgia Tech? Virginia Tech — North Carolina?
The fact that these are the top two that come to mind shows you how dire the straits would be for the ACC.
We’re talking about a crushing blow to the conference’s future.
The only thing worse than Florida State and Miami leaving for the Big 12?
The fact that other conferences smell the blood in the water, specifically the Big Ten and the SEC.
Remember that I told y’all that the ACC added Syracuse and Pittsburgh out of fear. The ACC was afraid of the SEC, specifically, snagging one or two of its teams. That’s why the ACC pre-emptively struck against the Big East to grab Syracuse and Pitt.
It was conference expansion born from fear — an opinion ratified when the television payout was middling at best.
But I doubt the ACC even realized the Big 12 was a real threat.
The Big 12 became a big threat when the chairman of Florida State’s board of trust said this to Warchant.com: “On behalf of the Board of Trustees I can say unanimously we would be in favor of seeing what the Big 12 might have to offer.
“We have to do what it is in Florida State’s best interest.”
Why are these quotes so important?
Because Florida State is publicly putting itself up for auction with these quotes. What’s more, the board of trustees is making it clear that there has been no Big 12 contact thus far. Ergo, there’s no claim for tortious interference — however misguided and overrated that claim might be. It also further inflames fan opinion by dangling the public possibility of a conference move. And, as I’ve told you before, fan opinion drives expansion decisions in the modern era.
Now, with Florida State — and maybe Miami — working the conference expansion block, serious danger looms for a conference that had seemed very secure just a few weeks ago.
I’ve been writing for several years about how the SEC’s ultimate future is a 16 team, four division conference. Where will the two teams come from? New markets in new states. Which new markets? Virginia and North Carolina. That’s why I believe that Virginia Tech and N.C. State will ultimately end up in the SEC.
Without Florida State and Miami the ACC’s best football school — Virginia Tech — would have its legs cut out from underneath it. Gone would be a yearly game against Miami and a regular rotation against Florida State. Those games are important for the Hokies — Florida was the most fertile recruiting region outside of Virginia for the team. That Florida pipeline would take a significant hit without yearly games in the sunshine state. Suddenly the SEC becomes an absolute must. Especially with an aging coach in Frank Beamer who will be 66 this October.
Make the wrong hire after Beamer and how quickly could Virginia Tech, now left behind in a weak conference with little national attention for football, descend to historical mediocrity in the ACC.
Really. Damn. Quick.
Toss in N.C. State to the SEC, the school that never can quite get over the Carolina-Duke hump, and the ACC is down to ten schools.
Similarly, the Big Ten has made no secret of its desire to improve its demographic profile.
How could it do so?
By making a foray South.
It has three top targets that would fit great in the Big Ten: Virginia, Maryland, and Georgia Tech.
In particular, Big Ten coaches would love to get in to the South and Georgia Tech is that entree. (The Big Ten would kill for Vanderbilt as well. In fact, and I’ve argued this for a long time and, go figure, it’s counterintuitive to what the rednecks will argue, the SEC needs Vandy more than Vandy needs the SEC. Given Vandy’s academics and fertile location in a booming Southern city, the Big Ten is absolutely in love with Vandy. So is the ACC. If Vandy ever left the SEC it would be a first round expansion pick.)
Imagine if the Big Ten finally persuaded Notre Dame that the independent gig was up by snatching up Virginia, Maryland, and Georgia Tech. Add Notre Dame and the Big Ten is also at 16.
That’s a hell of a conference for the Big Ten, expanding to make its conference better academically, demographically, and athletically.
Suddenly the ACC, erstwhile 14 team mega-conference, is down to this seven teams: Clemson, North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, Boston College, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse.
Would Pitt and Syracuse even leave the Big East then? Especially if this all happened before they even played a game? Why would you pay millions to join a five team conference? It is possible the Big East could make a play for these five schools — Clemson, North Carolina, Duke, Boston College and Wake Forest — and kill the ACC?
The ACC would have to hope not. Which is why what the ACC would probably try to do is deliver a death blow to the Big East, throwing a lifeline to UConn and Rutgers to get back to nine and then desperately adding South Florida, Louisville, and Cincinnati to get back to 12 and keep its conference title game.
So the ACC’s collapse leads to the demise of the Big East.
Or the Big East could, in an upset, kill the ACC.
There’s also the question out there about whether the ACC, academic snobs that they are, would even add South Florida, Louisville, and Cincinnati, three awful academic institutions.
Hell, you can even make an argument that the SEC and the Big Ten wouldn’t even have to poach the schools I’ve got them poaching. With the ACC wobbling this much, could the SEC and the Big Ten both make runs at the crown jewels of the ACC? Duke and North Carolina.
Either way, as you can see from conference dominoes, this is def-con 1 status for the ACC.
If Florida State and Miami really bolt, the ACC may be forced to expand out of weakness again.
Meaning the phones may be ringing at Connecticut and Rutgers very soon.
Stay tuned, another long hot summer of conference expansion is up and running.
Florida State Seminoles — and their fans — you’re on the clock and you’re this year’s Texas A&M, the school whose move will let loose a torrent of conference expansion dominoes.