So today's "informed sources" rumor is that the Pac-10 will invite Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado to merge with the Pac-10 creating a superconference of two divisions (Ariz and Ariz St join the Big 12 schools in the Eastern division) with the intention of creating a new cable network that stretches (in market terms) from Houston to Seattle. The only thing that I don't understand about it logically is "Why not take Utah and nail down Salt Lake City and leave Texas Tech behind with Baylor?"
Regardless, that could force the SEC to go only one place to get 16 teams. The southern foursome of the ACC that are already in the SEC footprint.
Assuming the Big Televen worst case (for the ACC) goes to 16 with 4 Eastern teams from the AAU-member pool available (Syracuse, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Maryland - and why would Maryland not join the Big 10 if the the southern football powers are clearly going to bolt the ACC?), then the ACC is left with only Boston College, the two Virginia schools and the four North Carolina schools and nowhere to go for members other than UConn and (gulp, Tier 3-) West Virginia, for a 9-member league with no football anchor.
It looks like the ACC may not have gone far enough in the 2003 expansion. Never a visionary, always preferring collegiality and tradition to bold moves, the ACC may now be faced with irrelevancy. In retrospect, a merger of the Big East football schools, an idea proposed by the 5 who sued, may have been the only wise thing to have done at the time. That would have been 17 teams, one too many, so maybe they would have left out UConn (not yet playing football) or West Virginia (for academic shortcomings).
If the SEC were smart, and they are, they would expand their footprint, build the league's reputation in all sports and increase TV revenues, by wooing North Carolina, Duke, Virginia and only one from Va Tech, NCSU, Clemson, Ga Tech, FSU and Miami, thereby adding the fast-growing and absolutely contiguous states of Virginia and North Carolina and reaching all the way to the Washington, DC TV market. Or maybe they take West Virginia, for whom they seem to have some strange fascination, as the fourth, making the footprint look downright sensible. And maybe, just maybe, Carolina and Duke see the writing in their checkbooks and abandon the conference they have dominated for over 50 years. Why sit back and let Clemson, Ga Tech, FSU and Miami, the last 3 relative newcomers to the ACC, reap the benefits of all their hard work? If the league is going to collapse, let the lower 4 take the hit.
Of course, this all assumes that the Texas schools merge with the Pac 10 schools.
Suddenly, the ACC appears to be the most threatened conference. The Big East survives as a basketball-only league and only strands Louisville, Cincy and S Florida who were lucky to be in an AQ league anyway and could quickly readjust to Conference USA or the like. The Big 12 only strands Iowa State, Baylor, the Kansas schools and possibly Nebraska (all of whom would then join forces in the MWC, probably ensuring that the MWC gets AQ status).
Given the conventional wisdom, the ACC is left as a 9-team football-playing basketball league (again) with UNC, NCSU, Duke, Wake, UVa, Va Tech, West Virginia (beggars can't be academic snobs!), Connecticut and Boston College.
Or, alternatively, this ACC: Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Wake Forest, NC State, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Louisville (the academic snobs have left the conference), Connecticut and Boston College. Say the Big 10 takes Nebraska with Missouri and only 3 Eastern teams, that means Syracuse or Pittsburgh is probably here too for a 12-team league. That league has a much stronger claim to be an AQ league and still looks pretty sweet in basketball.
Now finally, here's the thing. This very scenario may just be what keeps the current ACC together. Are you listening John Swofford? Are you listening Holden Thorp? Are you listening Richard Brodhead? (Psst. You may still have all the bargaining chips. Again.)