Conference Expansion…again?

I wrote last November about the absurdity of the most recent series of conference re-alignments and expansion. Conference realignment and expansion is in no way a recent, or revolutionary, concept. College football over the decades has remained about as steady as the Hatteras shoreline. The trend of several small, regional conferences towards a few elite super conferences traces back two decades (read more in-depth about that here), and it’s never had any purpose beyond filling the coffers of these super conferences with multi-millions in BCS and TV revenues.

Last summer, the whole college football world wanted to be aligned with Texas and its Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston TV markets, not to mention the state’s rich recruiting hotbeds (except, of course, Nebraska, who wanted nothing more than to wholly disassociate itself from the Texas-centric Big XII). Mike Slive, Larry Scott and Jim Delaney had become Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin at Yalta, but instead of re-organizing Post World War II Europe, the SEC, Pac-10 and Big 10 would re-organize the college football universe in the way that profited each of them most.

For a while, it seemed as if at least one of those would increase to 16 teams. The Pac-10 tried to add Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State; the Big Ten considered the usual, Notre Dame, as well as Texas, Nebraska, Missouri, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and perhaps even Maryland; while the SEC eyed Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Missouri.

Of course, the final shift was far less dramatic, with the Pac-10 adding only Colorado and Utah and the Big Ten only Nebraska, while the SEC remaining unchanged. The Big East later added TCU and has extended an offer to Villanova. Boise State joined the Mountain West right after TCU defected and BYU declared football independence, opting instead for its own TV network, similar to Notre Dame, and (eventually) Texas.

None of us who follow the politics and power struggle of college football expected that was the end, if for no other reason than it was all too neat. Whereas a handful of programs fight a massive arms race for the biggest stadium (capacity, in descending order: Michigan, Penn State, Tennessee, Ohio State, Alabama, Texas), the super conferences they comprise are fighting not for fans in those seats, but viewers on their couches at home. Understanding that, you can be certain that realignment and expansion is far from over. The SEC will expand to at least 14, and likely to 16, and the Big Ten will undoubtedly follow suit in the same manner.

The uncertainty, for a State fan, is what kind of plans the ACC has to protect its positioning and how the next round of changes will affect us.

I expect the SEC to initially add Texas A&M and Oklahoma, decimating an already-weakened Big XII that has banked its future on Texas’ commitment to the conference. Texas will pursue its own TV network, and once it proves lucrative, you can expect them to become independent. Eventually, I expect the SEC will try to lure Virginia Tech (a perfect fit), Florida State and/or Clemson away from the ACC. I know, this is where you tell me that doesn’t make sense because the SEC already has TV markets in Florida and South Carolina, and they should add State because we have the best fans in the world. Of course, I agree with latter, but then I counter that the move adds households in those markets, because the way conference TV agreements work, there would be no competition between Florida and Florida State, for example, during the 3:30 time slot. And TV viewers is the only thing that matters, remember?

Meanwhile, I expect the Big Ten will look at the same folks as last time, and end up adding Missouri, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Rutgers, or maybe even Maryland. The Pac-12 won’t affect us, but will add Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, and perhaps even give Boise State a look.

What we’re then left with is two conferences – ACC and Big East – already struggling to maintain relevance among the football big boys suddenly trying to figure out how to simply survive. Depending on how it plays out, both conferences could be down as many as three teams each. And considering the Big East would still have 14 or 15 teams for basketball, I wouldn’t expect any kind of merger for a super conference similar to the Big Eight and Southwestern Conference forming the Big XII in 1996. In that case, the two conferences would either have to try to raid each other, and/or look elsewhere to strengthen their position. Perhaps Memphis, with its deep pockets of FedEx support in tow; Navy, for its far-reaching appeal; or even Central Florida.

Hopefully the ACC leadership has a plan for keeping the conference intact or a contingency for keeping it strong if programs secede, because the next round of expansion could very well leave the ACC looking entirely different than what most of us grew up watching (heck, it already is). With that said, and having no lasting devotion to the current ACC, if I was in charge at State, here’s what I’d do: First, I’d extend tailgating and paint the end zones red-and-white checkerboard like a picture I saw circa-1960s, and then I’d get in touch immediately with Texas A&M about forming some kind of alliance; finally, I’d form a task force – Task Force Trinity Lot – dedicated solely to promoting the benefits of N.C. State in the SEC.

Actually, I think there’s nothing beyond a slim chance that State would ever be considered by the SEC, and it could even prove disastrous for us trying to compete at that level when we’ve barely competed in the ACC over the past decade. There’s simply no merit to the argument that suddenly as part of the SEC our recruiting would improve and we’d be competitive — if that’s the case, why hasn’t it worked for Kentucky, Vanderbilt or South Carolina?

My point is this: I’m impressed that Texas A&M is being proactive about its own future rather than strapping its fortune to its rival who has made it abundantly clear it will leave the Big XII as soon as it gets its own TV network — no way an independent Texas gets negotiated out of any future BCS deal. Now, where it may get interesting is if Texas A&M is just playing its hand to gain leverage on any potential partnership with Texas on a TV network, and they leave together. This could create further chaos, as the SEC’s potential raid of the ACC may go deeper — and in fact, may even include a team in the North Carolina market such as, say, State?

Of course then I’d spend most of my time complaining about how we’re 4-8 every season, but I’d finally get to go to an SEC game every week during the fall, just like I’ve always wanted.

About LRM

Charter member of the Lunatic Fringe and a fan, loyal to a fault.

ACC ACC Teams NCS Football

40 Responses to Conference Expansion…again?

  1. packof81 08/11/2011 at 5:33 PM #

    NC State in the SEC? I could be happy with that.

  2. Pack1997 08/11/2011 at 5:37 PM #

    If it is 14 for the SEC look at Missouri. The TV market is huge and that is what the SEC will be looking at. If it is 16 then Clemson, FSU and OU are in the mix. We will not be going to the SEC. We do not have the TV market nor the politics to separate from the ACC.

  3. Alpha Wolf 08/11/2011 at 5:50 PM #

    NC State would be lost in the SEC, let’s be honest. We simply do not have the donors to compete with Alabama, Florida and UGA, etc in football. We may be passionate about football, but they are insane. The best we could hope for would be to be on par with Miss. State and Old Miss. Maybe Arkansas.

  4. LRM 08/11/2011 at 5:58 PM #

    I agree with you Alpha (my comment was mostly tongue-in-cheek).

    I was in Arkansas the weekend of the Arkansas-Alabama game weekend last year, and their insanity is second to none. On the ride from the Little Rock airport to the house, we saw a Mallet for H16sman bumper sticker and listened to the morons on talk radio saying Alabama had no answer for Ryan Mallett, the clear Heisman favorite, or Petrino’s up-tempo offense. We turned the radio on after the game and Mallett was the sorriest-excuse-ever for a QB and Petrino was a terrible coach that relied too much on the pass. Classic.

  5. logarithm 08/11/2011 at 6:08 PM #

    I’m not interested in our squad playing in the SEC. I like that we’re a charter member of our conference. I like that we’re so geographically close to to so many other ACC schools and their fanbases. It’s much more fun to have neighbors and coworkers pull for rival schools and get to talk and joke with one another.

    And I don’t think we need to talk about moving into the best football conference in the country until we’re consistently in the ACC title game every year, winning or losing. I really don’t want my athletic department to get caught up all the money-chasing shenanigans the other conferences have got caught up in.

  6. highstick 08/11/2011 at 6:20 PM #

    Cluck Femson! Nobody wants them in the SEC as much as they’d like to be there! They had their chance and Frank Howard blew it!! They can rot in Pickens County!

  7. mikeD 08/11/2011 at 6:33 PM #

    Texas A&M isn’t going anywhere that doesn’t include at least two other Texas schools (maybe just one if it happens to be tu (Texas for those who have never visited Aggieland)). A&M President Loftin is a die hard aggie that is all about tradition (as is any other aggie). If they’ve played 3-4 Texas schools a year for at least 2 years, then they will call it a tradition and fight hard to continue that tradition.

  8. otisthetowndrunk 08/11/2011 at 6:53 PM #

    I think you are wrong in some of your assessment. I do not think Clempson add many new tv dollars to the SEC at all. I also do not think that Florida State adds much either. That ground is already covered.

    I think the SEC will look to add their own cable network similar to what the Big 10 has. Remembering how the money broke down for them, there was a rate for subscribers, and also a smaller rate for number of people it is available to. Using the Big Ten network as the model, it is all about the local cable carriers wanting to offer it.

    NC State will carry the entire state of North Carolina, Clemson will add subscribers, but not to new households, same with FL State. There are many more people in NC and slightly less in VA. These are were expansion will give the network the most return.

    Celmson and FSU give more football cred… but are they lacking in that depart. I think not. VPI will compete just fine, but not at the level they are currently accustomed to (at first). I think the SEC will want the NC markets (10th most populous state), all they will expect of us in football is to not embarrass them. Once we are in, with money and recruiting getting easier I can see us maintaining the level of success that I have grown accustom to. (1992 onward)

    Not that basketball has anything to do with the decision, our history of success (all the way back) will make State more palatable for the current SEC members to swallow.

  9. otisthetowndrunk 08/11/2011 at 6:57 PM #

    If we are so fortunate to join the SEC I think UNC will not want to play us at first. DUKE will be down for home and homes, cause it will mean a sold out game every time. UNC will then beg us to play them so they can fill that blight they play football at. I want to do it for that reason alone.

    As much as it pains me to say it, but even Smokey Glenn said State and VaTech when talking about tv dollars in this same conversation. He did not say State or Carolina, he said State. And we all know what side he is on.

  10. wardncsu 08/11/2011 at 6:57 PM #

    Texas A&M will go to the SEC its just a matter of when. The question will be if OU goes with them. After TAMU leaves, the Big 12 will implode and the big conferences will start the race to 16. The ACC will get raided its just a matter of who goes.

    There has been some talk about UNC and Duke moving to the Big 10. Big Ten wants them, Delaney’s a UNC alum, Bolsters BB and gets them into NC market. While I think this is a long shot, money talks. If this happens, the ACC is done and the SEC is our best option. Best to be proactive.

    I would be in favor of an SEC move even at the expense of tradition. We have been consistent in filling up Carter-Finley. Playing the football powers would only fuel more demand. I could see us adding 10-20,000 more seats in 5-7 years after joining to meet the demand. Yes, we would struggle initially as we would have to step up recruiting but we would also get a big card to play with recruits. I would also expect more alumni money to come in as well. On the basketball side, we would be at the top half consistently.

    For the SEC, while we don’t bring the football power that Clemson, Fla State or Miami bring, we offer the most important thing, access to the NC TV market. UNC and Duke aren’t going to the SEC, they fit more with the Big Ten than SEC. NC State and VA Tech bring the best access to the eastern TV markets and locks up the south for the SEC.

  11. Hungwolf 08/11/2011 at 7:23 PM #

    I think behind closed doors, many of the big time football schools would love to ditch the NCAA. Super conferences would be able to do that. One way to get more money for revenue is to get the money that is going to the NCAA. I hope to never see it happen, but with the big 12 sitting at ten schools something is going to happen. If NCAA was smart it would allow a conference championship game for conferences with ten schools. That could possibly delay the raiding of schools.

  12. 61Packer 08/11/2011 at 7:59 PM #

    Expansion sucks! Those of us who remember what a great league we had with 8 members don’t like seeing expansion continue. Rivalries have been killed and more money has been demanded from donors so we can keep up with the FSUs, the Miamis and the VTs of the league, who have drubbed most of the original ACC teams on the gridiron. And has expansion been good for ACC basketball? An ACC tourney ticket used to rival a coveted Master’s badge, but now they can’t even sell tourney tickets when the event is in Greensboro, and they can’t give them away when the tourney moves out of state. ACC opening round Thursday is about as interesting as an 18-inning game between the Mariners and the Orioles, and now they’re talking about even more of it?

    I don’t see NCSU ever moving to the SEC because the SEC wouldn’t WANT us in the first place, and our importance there would be no greater than Mississippi’s or possibly even Vanderbilt’s. If the SEC expands, my guess is that Texas A&M and Florida State would most likely go. Most Pack fans wouldn’t want to play in the SEC: we’d be an SEC northern outpost similar to BC in the ACC, killed in most sports, especially football and baseball, and downgraded in basketball because winning the SEC would pale in prestige compared to winning the ACC.

    Duke and UNC aren’t going anywhere. Why should they? They own this league in the thing that matters most- basketball. Both would be nuts to try and compete with SEC football, especially UNC given their gridiron problems. Duke would be trading 20-point losses in the ACC to 40-point losses in the SEC.

    VT to the SEC makes no sense either, as the Gobblers have been the ACC’s best football program since they came in, and in the SEC they’d be battling for a 2nd or 3rd tier bowl. Plus, they just got out of a league that required a plane ride for every opponent; here, it’s a bus ride to most. An SEC move would be a plane ride again, like it’d be for us if we were in the SEC.

    And another problem with expansion is that the bigger the conference, the less and less you’ll get to play your opponents on the other side of the division. All I want is for us to play each conference opponent in football and each conference opponent twice in basketball every season. The 4 OOC games we play each season are poor substitutes for playing all members of the other ACC division. We’re playing South Alabama and Central Michigan more than we’re playing Duke, and this is the kind of thing that needs to stop. But with more expansion, it’ll only get worse.

  13. Astral Rain 08/11/2011 at 8:25 PM #

    Other scenarios:

    1) How about UNC, State, and Duke to the Big 10? Who says that super conferences have to be stuck at 16? Especially if the NCAA is bye-bye, which is what will happen

    2) There will need to be a 4th super-conference, and I suspect that the independents would have to join in eventually- I suspect Texas/ND/BYU would end up SEC/Big/PAC. The ACC could gobble up some Big East/C-USA schools WVA/Pitt/Rutgers/Syracuse/USF/UCF, maybe UConn and go after ND ourselves. The ACC’s academic credibility is still on par with the Big whatever even after the UNC scandal, and we’d still have the best basketball, as only a couple of those schools couldn’t compete in the ACC (USF and Rutgers maybe)

    Then you’d get your playoff. I wonder if there’s a scenario where football breaks from the NCAA but other sports stay within the NCAA- can the NCAA regulate non-NCAA sports?

  14. pack76 08/11/2011 at 8:52 PM #

    I hope our Commish has plans for expansion or some protection plan for the ACC. We need to be proactive and not react to what the other bigger conferences do. I would see the ACC adding another Florida school(So. Fl, C.Fl.) and maybe a Syracuse, W.Va. or Rutgers. Being proactive why not attempt to raid the SEC or the Big Ten! I know that is way out of the box, but why not??? We are the little guy (ACC) because we think like the little guy.

  15. Wolfacct 08/11/2011 at 9:17 PM #

    Otis, I agree with you 100%. FSU to the SEC won’t happen as long as Florida is an SEC member. There’s alot of discussion regarding OK to the SEC, but I think where ever OK goes, so does OK State. T Boone Pickens has alot of $$$$. The Big 12 may survive with A&M leaving by picking up a Boise State, TCU, Air Force, or other western schools. After a few years, BYU will find that independence isn’t that great and be looking for a conference. I think BC and MD would jump at the chance to join the Big 10, as well as Notre Dame. Rutgers would take that conference to 16 teams. As for the ACC, we could pick up WVU, Syracuse, Pittsburg, UConn and UCF.

    As for NC State, I’m all for the SEC. We haven’t won the ACC since ’79 in football and ’89 in bball, so it’s not like we’re dominating the ACC.

  16. OldWuf 08/11/2011 at 9:26 PM #

    I agree with 61 Packer, “Expansion sucks!” Encourage BC, Miami to hit the road. Wouldn’t be too mad if FSU or the Twerps left. It was better when we played every conference team in football and home/away in BBall. We are not SEC material, nor do we want to be. Lets stay in OUR conference and improve to where we can kick ass and win conference on a regular basis. Va Tech, FSU, even Clempson are more SEC than us.

  17. LRM 08/11/2011 at 9:38 PM #

    The days of the small conference are over. There’s simply no money in it. It’s just the nature of big time college football nowadays.

    We better adapt or the conference will be fighting for a spot in the Liberty Bowl.

  18. BJD95 08/11/2011 at 10:13 PM #

    The money is in football, not basketball. As such, the SEC is where it’s at. If we received an invite to join and passed, it would be a mistake of monumental proportions.

    If the SEC does indeed take a bite out of the ACC, we better hope it takes us in its jaws. Because the ACC remnant will be a glorified version of the C-USA. Perhaps even with the Pie-rats in it.

    Thanks but no thanks. Tradition is nothing but an anchor if this comes to pass. You’re either proactive, or you’re roadkill.

  19. PackerInRussia 08/11/2011 at 11:59 PM #

    “We may be passionate about football, but they are insane”

    You wanna get nuts?? Let’s get nuts!!!

  20. PackerInRussia 08/12/2011 at 12:08 AM #

    Is there any chance of this getting so far blown out of proportion that we have to start aligning in ways similar to professional leagues? Two giant “conferences” that are then divided into many small divisions. The divisions interplay each year, but there would rarely be inter-conference play (not feasible). Then you could structure the post-season any way you want. It’d be perfectly set up for a playoff for those who like that or you could probably still maintain the current bowl format (division winners automatically go to bowls with probably some extra ones to pick up some “wild card” teams). It’s hard to say if this would be more or less attractive to the TV networks and if it would involve too much revenue sharing.

  21. redwolf87 08/12/2011 at 1:01 AM #

    Clemson would fit much better in the SEC. I’ve heard their alumni say so. So would GaTech for that matter.

    And, since NC State is a similar institution to them, maybe we’d be better there also.

    Let Duke and UNC-CHeat boo-foo each other, as they run the ACC into the ground. I would love any chance to distance ourselves from them. That would give buttsqueezes like Goodman and Parrish (lower class basketball writers) less inflammtory fodder…at least after the first season or two.

  22. Wulfpack 08/12/2011 at 6:30 AM #

    “We better adapt or the conference will be fighting for a spot in the Liberty Bowl.”


    “Tradition is nothing but an anchor if this comes to pass. You’re either proactive, or you’re roadkill.”

    Very well said.

  23. LRM 08/12/2011 at 7:08 AM #

    redwolf, GT’s departure from the SEC in 1963 was apparently much uglier than USC’s from the ACC in 1971, so I’m not sure they’d even be considered.

    What we all have to get past is who is the “best fit.” That’s what had us all worked up over Boston College, because they weren’t a good fit. But “best fit” has very little to do with it; it’s almost entirely based on TV revenue.

    I think that in 20 years conferences will mean very little to college football, so I’m in favor of being proactive about what’s best for NC State, not necessarily the ACC.

  24. BJD95 08/12/2011 at 7:37 AM #

    Amen, LRM. I agree, think you will see a shift closer to the NFL model. And it will bring with it a shit ton of TV money…if you’re associated with the power players.

  25. packalum44 08/12/2011 at 9:51 AM #

    Scattered thoughts:

    I wouldn’t mind being at the bottom of the SEC. Sure beats being at the bottom of the ACC! We’d also kick ass in basketball!!

    I honestly believe our 2011 team could hold their own in the SEC right now. We’d have a chance to break even or win 7 games depending on our schedule. Lots of SEC teams play cupcake out of conference games. SEC is deep, but consistently OVERRATED.

    Sure there are 6 or 7 teams that have the capability to win a National Championship…but not EVERY year! Some programs have down years (TN, UGA) while others have up years (Auburn, ARK). Some are damn hard to beat every year and State would lose to perennially (UF, AL). Remember Clemson vs. Auburn and UNC vs. LSU last year? Without Scam Newton Auburn loses 5 games last year.

    O’Brien is an SEC caliber coach with ACC morals.

Leave a Reply