I’ve long-believed expansion/re-alignment wouldn’t end until there were four 14- or 16-team superconferences controlling the football universe, i.e., TV/BCS revenue. The proliferation of college football on TV over the past 20 years has shifted the landscape such that traditional cultural and geographical alliances simply don’t matter, and conference names have little to do with affiliated members. It’s quite simple, actually: TV markets matter, nothing else.
Why split the gobs of potential revenue with the ACC and Big East weaklings? Four ways splits better than six.
As of now, major media outlets are reporting that Maryland and Rutgers may join the B1G as early as Monday (some rumors today that Georgia Tech has shown interest). Very few of us would miss Maryland (or its fans), but the reality is that it’s a move that could start a potentially unfavorable domino-effect for others in the ACC, and most importantly, N.C. State. It would be the perfect way for Maryland to leave the ACC.
If Maryland successfully negotiates — or sues for — a reduced exit fee, then it seems logical that Florida State would use this as the precedent to go to the Big XII, or at least try (there have been reports that Texas does not support expansion beyond 10). Keep in mind, neither Maryland nor Florida State voted yes to the increased $50 million exit fee, which could matter in a legal battle (West Virginia won a similar legal battle last year).
So, assuming Maryland leaves and Florida State soon follows, the ACC is left unsettled with more questions in need of answers.
Does anyone else leave?
If the Big XII does add Florida State, it won’t stop at 11. Louisville is rumored to be the 12th member, and it’s plausible that Clemson and Miami would both be interested. Florida State, Clemson, Miami, West Virginia, and Louisville would at least offer a semi-logical divisional alignment for a 14-team league.
What would Notre Dame do?
I’m not sure anyone can answer this. Last week pundits were saying that being independent was hurting Notre Dame in the BCS, but that idea was scratched when both Kansas State and Oregon lost last night. Notre Dame now controls is destiny to the national title game, and getting there certainly doesn’t make full membership in the ACC more likely. Most importantly, Notre Dame’s TV ratings on both NBC (home games) and ABC/ESPN (all others) are soaring this season.
One possibility is that Notre Dame changes direction altogether, similar to what TCU did after it joined the Big East, where it never played a game before eventually joining the Big XII.
Without Florida State or Notre Dame, the ACC is a far less attractive option for TV or the BCS. Consider that in its current form, the ACC just signed a 12-year deal with the Orange Bowl valued at $660 million ($55 million annually). Meanwhile, the SEC just signed a 12-yr deal with the Sugar Bowl worth $960 million ($80 million annually). That gap will only grow with a depleted league.
How will state politics factor in?
This is the most interesting, and most complicated, aspect. Perhaps others can offer more insight into what we could expect in this regard.
Virginia: The extent of my knowledge of Commonwealth politics is that it’s currently a Blue State. But, I know that Virginia Tech cashed in a lot of political capital to force Virginia to block Syracuse in the 2003 expansion plan. So, would the state legislature now even allow Virginia Tech to break away from Virginia?
North Carolina: There are multiple factors here. Will the NC General Assembly ever allow a separation between State-Carolina, especially where one benefits over the other? Moreover, I’m not sure how Duke or Wake Forest even factor into the state politics equation. Do either of them even have political capital in the state? How attractive is Carolina to anyone else with such massive allegations of institutionalized academic fraud looming?
What should State do?
I’ve always thought the ideal scenario for the SEC is to add Virginia Tech and Carolina, but that Carolina would never break its marriage to Duke, nor would it abandon its most-favored status in the ACC. Now I’m not so sure, so State should be proactive and look into an alliance with Virginia Tech to offer a combined NC/VA TV market to the SEC and Big XII, see if anything favorable comes of it. I’m not saying either will want us, or that it’s even politically possible. But think about it this way: the only reason Missouri is a part of the SEC is because they had a favorable TV market and the league required a balanced schedule to keep traditional cross-division rivals happy.
Why does LRM hate the ACC so much?
It’s not necessarily hate, but pragmatism. The reality is, the ACC that State helped charter is gone, nothing but a moniker. It’s possible that by next year ACC charter members will be outnumbered by former Big East teams.
In the simplest terms, I’m pro-N.C. State, not pro-ACC, and I don’t believe that what’s best for the ACC is necessarily what’s best for N.C. State.