The Carolina Four have two priorities, 1) don’t mess with their round-robin basketball schedule and 2) keep as much power as possible in North Carolina. The southern tier of the ACC has one priority, make the ACC an equal to the SEC. The Big East schools likewise, have one priority, SURVIVAL!
I think everybody is in agreement that there is going to be a major shake-up on the east coast whether this expansion effort succeeds or fails. With that, I present my scenario for the future.
I do not see this expansion happening, there is just too much give and take. Now is the time to make a shift. Perhaps if Clemson, Florida State, and Georgia Tech wanted to improve their conference lot they will leave the ACC for the newly formed East Coast Conference (the basketball schools started the Big East and will probably retain the name). However, geographically this conference is ungainly. Say what you want about media markets and the like, travel still represents a huge cost to athletic departments, perhaps the biggest. What about the rest of the ACC? I don’t think it would break the heart of the Carolina Four to be rid of the southern tier (maybe it would break a few hearts), but what if the Carolina Four, Virginia, and Maryland could reform the ACC with Syracuse, Boston College, Connecticut, and Rutgers. That is a second to none basketball conference with some decent football. It would keep its BCS slot! This group can maintain a double round-robin basketball schedule and the geography is contiguous without making substantial increases in travel costs. Also, the academics of all of these institutions are unquestioned (maybe they can make an academic consortium). Perhaps this group of ten is one that Penn State and Notre Dame would WANT to join. Now this pushes the group to twelve, but works better for the ACC. The six original ACC members will have a double round-robin basketball schedule within each division (making them happy because the original rivalries are maintained) and play the other six on a yearly rotating home-away schedule. Also, this will REDUCE travel costs with less trips north (or south, depending on your point of view), especially for non-revenue sports.
North: Syracuse, Boston College, Penn State, Notre Dame, Connecticut, Rutgers
South: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke, Wake Forest
(This only if the two additional join, otherwise remains a ten-team conference with no divisions.)
What about the East Coast Conference (and my beloved HOKIES)? Well, given that I just gave the northeast schools away, Virginia Tech, Miami, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia combine with Clemson, Florida State, and Georgia Tech, but they are going to need a few more, including some that play decent basketball. Five more will give the required twelve for the conference championship game. This is also the humanitarian part because we are now going to include some good schools that are currently on the outside looking-in. I am thinking East Carolina, Louisville, Cincinnati, and Memphis. Three of these four play excellent basketball and all have competitive football programs. For my fifth, I say lets get South Carolina (this would also be a humanitarian effort). If not USC, then Southern Mississippi, but for the rest of this thesis I am going to keep South Carolina in my group. Now the East Coast Conference may not want to start any academic consortium, though many of these schools have excellent academic reputations (including Virginia Tech, which would be a fine academic fit for the current ACC). I do not want to put down any school either; the bottom line is that all of America’s institutions of higher learning provide excellent education opportunities for all people. This group of twelve is geographically contiguous, but it is a stretch. This is when a twelve-team format can actually reduce travel cost. As noted in the aforementioned ACC plan, the geographic divisions can be made to reduce long distance travel. Using a format similar to the Big 12, a division member would play everybody in their respective division and three from the other; I would suggest rotating in groups of three. In other words, each school plays a group of three one year, some home, the other(s) away. The next year, play the other three. The third year play the original three, reversing the home away schedule; likewise for the fourth year playing the second group of three. In this manner a school plays everybody home-and-away at least once every four years. Given the four-year nature of most degree programs, that is great for the students. I do not see any cross sectional rivalries that are a must every year; most of the important rivalries are maintained within the divisions (the same holds true for the ACC above). All other rules for twelve-team conference scheduling in other sports apply.
North: Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis
South: Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, South Carolina, East Carolina
I want to make just a couple of quick notes:
1) The notion of Miami being in a conference that plays in the northeast because that is where the students come from is BS. Kids will go to Miami regardless because it is cold in the northeast, while the city of Miami is warm, with an outstanding beach filled with scantly clad, and often topless, women.
2) Even if the proposed ACC did not include Penn State and Notre Dame, the proposed ten-team group would retain an automatic BCS berth. The reputations and/or recent success of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Syracuse, and Boston College is too much for the powers that be to turn their collective backs on. Also, I have my own theory of relativity. Though there is no major superstar, i.e. a Florida School, some will rise to the top, others to the bottom, and most to the middle. The top performers, competing for the chance to go to the BCS will continue to improve, win some good out-of-conference games, and provide credibility.
3) Though the East Cost Conference does not have any major media outlets outside of Atlanta and Miami, I guarantee that this group would get an excellent media contract. After all, what major urban areas fall within the SEC? The answer is none other than Atlanta, and they have the best football contract of all. The ECC would also provide some outstanding basketball from Louisville, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Memphis, and Georgia Tech. I have to believe others will improve and an entire hierarchy would form (see my abbreviated theory of relativity above). The bottom line is that these universities have alumni across the country and most people who just are fans want to see good games. Blacksburg may not be a media center, but Virginia Tech football draws well on national TV. This would also be a good traveling conference, a slight notch below the SEC, but the bowl tie-ins, especially regionally, would be good.
4) Ramifications in collegiate athletics could range from minimal to far reaching. If everybody felt the itch to go to twelve, of course the dominos will fall. Again, my hope is that this could open more doors. If South Carolina joined the new East Coast Conference, this would allow Texas A&M to join the SEC. This would open the door to the SEC into Texas and would probably only work out with an agreement between the two universities and the SEC. The door now opens for BYU in the Big 12. I agree with many who believe BYU is a better fit for the Big 12 than PAC-10. If the Big Ten, having possibly lost Penn State, can convince Missouri and Iowa State to join, this opens the door for Texas Christian and Wyoming or New Mexico in the Big Twelve (Wyoming is a better geographic fit and despite recent poor showings, does have an overall positive track record in athletics). The PAC-10 can become the PAC-12 with the additions of Utah and Colorado State; thought Colorado State may be better in the Big 12 and Colorado a more receptive addition to the PAC-12.