This is a popular topic on the forums, so just a few more thoughts to kick around on Thanksgiving Day evening. This is a topic, along with a variety of others, being discussed on the SFN Forums. SFN wishes you a great Thanksgiving Weekend!
Reportedly, Virginia Tech President Charles Steger told John Swofford the SEC talk was a “non-starter.” Otherwise, since Maryland bolted for the B1G, ACC leaders have been mum on the issue. And as long as that’s the case, we’re going to speculate about the future of the league, and more importantly, State’s future as part of it.
Compared to its BCS peers, the ACC is a poor conference where the financial gap is widening, which makes the league vulnerable. And it’s unsettling to think that our fate could actually be tied to Virginia-Virginia Tech politics.
Let me explain.
Maryland leaving, on its own, hardly affects the ACC. They can easily be replaced by, for instance, Louisville, who has publicly stated it prefers the ACC or Big XII over the crumbling Big East, and would arguably be an upgrade. Along with Notre Dame as at least a partial member, the ACC would probably survive as a minority partner of the BCS. Few of us really care about Maryland — they were just a potential domino.
Florida State’s response to Maryland’s exit, and their projected quick recovery of the exit fee, is where the concern lies.
It’s no secret Florida State wants a new home in the Big XII. For everyone who sees craziness in N.C. State’s hope to be in the SEC, consider this: few folks have suggested Florida State’s desire to be in the Big XII is equally insane, even though their prolonged mediocrity over the past decade (along with Miami) is largely responsible for the intense football failure the ACC has become. Despite rumors that Texas opposes expansion, the Big XII is losing out on the added revenue of both a conference championship game and new TV markets, so it’s likely they’ll at least add Florida State and probably Louisville.
Florida State’s departure would create the chaos many of us dread. It’s unlikely Notre Dame ever becomes a football member in a league without Florida State, especially after their on-field and on-TV resurgence this season. Clemson wants out, and there there are at least rumors Georgia Tech does too. The Big XII may look to expand further into the SEC footprint, and both Clemson and Georgia Tech would be attractive options. My understanding, based on what we’ve seen, is that any further expansion by the B1G, SEC or Big XII is only justified financially by adding new TV markets.
That leaves Virginia, Virginia Tech, Carolina and State as the remaining attractive options in two attractive TV markets still untapped by the SEC, B1G and Big XII. So State (or Carolina) would need to be in a package deal with Virginia Tech (or Virginia) to see movement by any of them.
Now, a little history: in 2003, with help from the governor and state legislature, Virginia Tech bullied its way into the ACC by forcing Virginia to vote against any expansion plan not including Virginia Tech. With seven votes required and both Duke and Carolina opposed to expansion, Virginia was the swing vote that forced Virginia Tech in over Syracuse. So, I’m curious if, perhaps, Steger called it a “non-starter” because he knows Virginia Tech simply doesn’t have the political capital to separate itself from Virginia unless they, too, can find a more profitable home.
If true, we need to hope desperately that the B1G wants to expand further along the east coast and invites Virginia, which would then allow for Virginia Tech to make a move, and in turn, State.
Admittedly, I’m making assumptions. For one, I see neither Virginia nor Carolina as a target of either the SEC or Big XII. I’m also assuming that Carolina would break its marriage with Duke and leave its most-favored status in the ACC; if we’ve learned anything, it’s that Carolina lets nothing limit its athletic financial potential, and it does them no good in a football world to be left in a basketball league with mostly small, private schools.
Moreover, Chancellor Woodson may tell us all tomorrow we’re firmly committed to the ACC, and this will all be rendered moot (for us). But our current leadership hasn’t shown the proclivity for limiting our options. I think it’s more likely there are contingencies being prepared in response to the eventual departure of Florida State and others. Perhaps, even with Florida State gone, the ACC could somehow remain viable as part of the BCS, but considering its limited options — raiding the Big East clearly doesn’t solve the problem — it’s unlikely.
The SEC has a new TV contract to negotiate next year and the Big XII is leaving too much revenue untapped, so I think we’ll start to see rumors soon and then, as we’ve seen recently, this will all move very fast. I only hope we’re being positioned as an asset rather than being doggedly loyal to a league that hardly resembles the great alliance it once was.
Or maybe I’m wrong about all of this and the ACC thrives as the Little Big East.