Sunday AM Recap: ACC Striking First & What It Means for the ACC and Other Conferences
Yesterday’s news of Pitt and Syracuse applying (and unofficially already approved) to the ACC shook things up a bit. For months, people such as myself have been banging the drum for ACC to be proactive with expansion. The reason? Survival. Conference realignment is a formula…and with any formula, there are predictions. But when you looked at the formula that seemed to be initiated with Texas A&M to SEC developments, and the potential for four 16-school super conferences, it was the ACC that appeared lined up to be at the bottom of the 4 conference group. That still might be the case depending on how things play out. But at least the ACC is positioning themselves to add schools THEY want, rather than sitting an waiting and being forced to add schools they don’t in order to keep pace.
The ACC could as soon as today be announcing the additions of Syracuse and Pitt as the 13th and 14th members. (UPDATE: they did an hour after writing this)
But what happens next for the ACC is still a mystery.
The ACC is poised to also add UConn and Rutgers to expand to 16. This is the move that always seemed the most logical from a business perspective. The ACC sits in the backyard of the SEC for football…and the SEC has been a rich and powerful neighbor. The only way for the ACC to keep up is to claim new territory as exclusively theirs. The addition of Boston College did give them some access into New England. But a single school doesn’t do much. This was still Big East country were were talking about, with Boston College just an outsider in their yard.
But if Syracuse, Pitt, Uconn and Rutgers were all to join the ACC, there is no argument: the ACC would be the eastern seaboard conference in regards to influence and cache.
The addition alone of Pitt and Syracuse will be a big help in this goal. Adding Uconn and Rutgers would lock it up. With all four schools included, there would be no debate: the northeast would be ACC country, fitting for a conference named the “Atlantic Coast Conference”. You’d see a conference with the best D1 FBS programs from MA, CT, NY, NJ, MD, VA and NC in a conference together. The other states and markets? You’d have Pittsburgh, a school in the heart of Big Ten country due to the Penn St. proximity. In South Carolina and Georgia, you have your 2 school, ACC/SEC split. And in Florida, the ACC celebrates having both Florida St. and Miami while the SEC has a single representative, powerhouse Florida.
The basketball benefits of adding all 4 Big East schools are easy to see. Syracuse ad Uconn are national championship winners, Pitt a national power, and Rutgers considered by some to be a sleeping giant.
But football is what drives expansion and in that regard, it’s hard to look at the two likely newest additions or potential future additions like UConn and Rutgers and think “home run”. With football powers like Nebraska on the move last year, and brands like Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma on the brink as well, the ACC moves on the surface might seem lackluster. But it’s the long term stability of the conference that benefits. What started with last weeks ACC exit fee boost, a move to keep the ACC schools together, expansion is the next logical step.
And now, at the time of this article, it appear that Syracuse and Pitt are all but officially the ACC’s next members.
But for now, it’s only those two schools.
Expansion to 16 with Rutgers and Uconn isn’t entirely in the plans yet.
And that is because the ACC is likely to wait for Notre Dame and Texas to officially notify the conference they are not interested in joining as all-sports members.
Those two schools would make the ACC an even bigger power. And there is an argument that even adding them for non-football sports would be a benefit.
Should they pass, the ACC would likely wait to see what happens with the other conferences, such as the Pac-12 and SEC, before deciding on a path to 16 with Rutgers and UConn.
Meanwhile, the Big 12 situation hasn’t gone away.
Oklahoma still seems poised to pursue the Pac-12, a move that would seem to bring along Oklahoma St.
If adding Oklahoma and Oklahoma St., the Pac-12 would also want to add Texas (a move that would bring Texas Tech along).
But Texas has other plans:
* Consider the ACC in some capacity
* Rebuild the Big 12 (would be down to 7 members without OU/OSU) by likely targeting Big East schools such as Louisville and WVU).
* Move to the Pac-16
But it’s the ACC moves combined with the potential Big 12 openings that are making things the most interesting:
The Big East is about to drop to 7 members. The Big 12 to 7 members if Oklahoma/OSU leave and Texas stays. Wouldn’t the easiest solution be to just merge the two under the Big 12 banner? Perhaps.
The proposed lineup could look like…
Big 12 – East: Uconn, Rutgers, WVU, Cincinnati, Louisville, Missouri, USF
Big 12 – West: Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor, Kansas, Kansas St., Iowa St
Seems easy, right?
It would require true LHN greed for Texas to want to be associated with this group over a more prestigious Pac-16 of ACC.
It would require WVU, Missouri, Louisville, etc to pass on an SEC #14 invitations.
And as we have seem, it’s every man for themselves. Expecting a school to pass on stability for a strange union is asking a lot.
So one potential path we could see in the coming weeks:
* SEC to 14 with Texas A&M and a 14th school (WVU or Missouri)
* ACC to 14 or 16 with Pitt & Syracuse (perhaps UConn and Rutgers)
* Pac-16 with Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St.
* Big East remnants (4 or 5 schools) leave to join the Big 12 remaining schools (4 or 5 schools) in some capacity.
The last option there is a result of the ACC developments.
For the past few weeks, it appeared that the Big East was poised to benefit if the Big 12 folded. The conference of 9 football schools could have had the power to add 3-5 remaining schools, left out of the SEC and Pac-12. Instead, due to the expected Pitt and Syracuse defections, it means the Big East is weakened with only 7 schools. If Uconn and Rutgers leave, it’s only 5 members. If WVU joined the SEC, it’s only 4 members. At some point, the Big East will need to decide if it is best to just encourage the football schools (USF, Cincinnati, TCU, Louisville, WVU) to leave or bring in all the Big 12 schools. But the Big East schools might find more solace in joining a non-hybrid conference like the Big 12 .
So what could the Big 12 look like?
Missouri, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., Baylor, TCU, Louisville, Cincinnati, USF
It’s going to be an interesting day, and interesting week.