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Moments ago ESPN’s Brett McMurphy broke news that Maryland and Rutgers are poised to leave the ACC and the Big East, respectively, to become the 13th and 14th members of the Big Ten.
Rumors of Maryland’s departure began circulating late in the week, but this still comes as a bit of a shocker given that earlier this year the ACC, in a show of supposed unity and strength, voted to increase the conference exit fee to $50 million.
At the time of the vote reports circulated that Florida State and Maryland both opposed the increased exit fees.
Now we know why Maryland wasn’t all in.
So what’s the practical impact of college sports realignment rearing its head once more.
Let’s dive in.
1. The ACC would probably add UConn to get back to 14 members.
Louisville and Cincinnati will argue that they make good fits, but this isn’t likely to happen because both schools are not up to the academic standards of the ACC. You’ll recall that the worst school in the ACC — the highest ranked of all BCS conferences — is N.C. State at 106 in the U.S. News Rankings. (Maryland is currently 58).
Cincinnati is 139 and Louisville is 164.
There’s no way they get invites to the ACC.
UConn would kill to join the ACC, and with a present academic ranking of 63, it’s the rough equivalent of Maryland.
Go ahead and pencil in UConn to the ACC.
2. Do not underrate the importance of academics in these moves.
The SEC presidents voted to add Texas A&M and Missouri because both schools made the SEC much better academically.
With Rutgers at 68 and Maryland at 58 in the most recent U.S. News and world report rankings — and both members of the prestigious Association of American Universities — Big Ten presidents can argue to their academic peers that their 14 team conference is the strongest in the nation.
3. That fifty million ACC exit fee must not be very iron clad.
I asked exit fee questions when this measure was passed by the ACC. And so did Florida State. Namely, how enforceable was the exit fee? Remember when everyone said Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M, and Missouri would all have huge exit fees to pay? None of those schools paid more than $12.4 million.
Because as OKTC told you, the bylaws weren’t as clear as the Big 12 thought.
Could the same be true of the ACC’s $50 million? We don’t know for sure because the ACC’s bylaw language isn’t public, but remember that the chairman of Florida State’s board of trustees said this to Warchant when the ACC voted to increase the exit fees:
“President Barron voted against it. I personally think that $50 million is punitive. I’m not sure that holds up,” said Bense, who was named the chairman of the Board of Trustees for a two-year term in June. Bense also said that Maryland voted against the increased buyout. “I’m not implying that there’s going to be any changes, but $50 million is a lot of money.”
If Maryland finds a way out for less than $50 million — and the Terps’ lawyers must think they can — this opens the floodgates for Florida State to the Big 12.
It might not happen immediately, but it sure as hell becomes a lot more likely.
4. It also reopens the window for the SEC to expand into Virginia and North Carolina.
Remember I told y’all a long time ago that it’s my prediction that eventually Virginia Tech and N.C. State will become the SEC’s 15th and 16th members.
I still believe that’s inevitable.
Especially when the SEC Network launches in 2014 and the fire hydrant of cash rains forth on all the programs.
If Florida State and Clemson or Georgia Tech are wobbly and inclined to jump to the Big 12, wouldn’t it make sense for a couple of ACC schools to jump to the most lucrative conference in America as well? The ACC is in real danger of having no major football powers in the foreseeable future.
Do Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Florida State really belong in a basketball conference?
5. What about the Big 12?
I don’t think the Big 12 moves unless Florida State and another school can leave the ACC.
The television money isn’t substantial enough to add Louisville or Cincinnati and I’m not sure that the conference wants to add a title game.
Basically, I think the Big 12 stays put unless Florida State comes into play.
And Florida State won’t come into play until we get a precedent on what the Maryland exit fee would be.
6. Let’s give props to ESPN for actually breaking a conference realignment story.
Remember when OKTC ran circles around the worldwide leader during the last round of conference realignment?
Well, ESPN is finally breaking realignment news.
It’s a victory for the news department at ESPN.
7. Finally, what about the Big East?
The timing could not be any worse for the Big East, which is currently enmeshed in television negotiations and just announced two divisions for football. Those divisions were to be as follows for the 2013 and 2014 years:
Western division of Boise State, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State, SMU and Temple
Eastern division of Central Florida, Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida
Given that Rutgers would leave for the Big Ten and UConn would leap to the ACC, you’re suddenly back down to ten football schools.
You could play with ten for a couple of years, but then you’d need to pair at least one school with Navy.
Only, here’s the deal, you can’t play a conference title game unless you have at least two divisions of six teams each.
So if you want to play that title game in 2013, you’d have to add two schools pretty damn quick.
Who would those schools be?
You could beg for BYU to join you. But why would they?
That means you probably have to drop down and make a run at East Carolina, Air Force, Louisiana Tech, MTSU, hell, I don’t even know who you go after.
Air Force has already said no.
But you’ve got to add two schools pretty fast.
Just when you thought the wheels of conference realignment were going to be locked into place for a while, here we go again.
Buckle up, kids.