With constant talk of conference expansion and realignment filling the blogosphere and in some cases conferences actually making moves, the ACC must move quickly to avoid being lost in the shuffle.
While many believe (admittedly me before this summer) that Tech should find the closest lifeboat and get off the sinking ship that seems to be the ACC, the conference could position itself as a top three conference once the age of the super-conferences arrives with the Pac-16 and Big Ten.
The SEC is the weakest conference in terms of markets within its footprint, and as time goes on, that will hinder its future financial prospects. The Big Ten, Pac-10 and ACC could also trap the SEC as a regional conference, further hindering the growth of the traditional southern football conference. Unless the Big Ten sends Tech an invite, a larger ACC is the best for Tech.
There are some pie-in-the-sky candidates for the ACC, which are pipe dreams at best. The two that come to mind are Penn State and Notre Dame. So against what some over zealous ACC fans may say, Penn State will not leave the Big Ten unless Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany completely drops the ball and does not appease the Nittany Lions with some eased travel schedule. The ACC is probably the Fighting Irish’s second choice for full conference membership, but that is a very distant second choice.
But there are also some candidates that do not meet the criteria to be in the ACC. Louisville, Cincinnati and West Virginia come to mind here. None of them have the academic merit to be in the ACC, nor should exceptions be made for those schools because none of them really bring that much to the table.
So who fits the bill academically but does not have much better options? UConn, Syracuse and Pitt come to mind. Pitt and Syracuse are members of the Association of American Universities (AAU) and UConn has its own academic merits. They all have well developed athletics programs and will increase presence in the Northeast markets.
I will concede that they do not add the football presence that other conferences seek, but it would create the greatest basketball conference and that should have a huge financial windfall for all the schools in the conference. And a strong economic base will allow the conference to develop into a major football contender.
The potential fight with the Big Ten for these schools could also be avoided by making a deal that the ACC would destroy the Big East in exchange for those schools, which will allow the Big Ten to swoop up Notre Dame. It is a win-win for the ACC and the Big Ten. Granted, some guy at Georgetown Law will say that this is somehow illegal and unethical, collusion maybe, but Duke also produces great lawyers, so I like our chances.
This would put the ACC at 15 schools and would need one more to get to the magical 16. Here there are some options. First, an invite to Vanderbilt should not be completely blown off. Vandy is like the kid who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks but actually decided to do something with his life but struggles to ditch his old, dumb friends from the neighborhood. Maybe an opportunity to join a group of schools more fitting of their profile would allow the Commodores to sever their old ties.
A dark-horse, off-the-beaten-path candidate, which should not be overlooked is Fordham. Hear me out on this one. For those asking what is Fordham: it is a Jesuit college based in the Bronx. They have decent basketball history, and their football team has played in both the Cotton and Sugar Bowls, albeit both appearances were during World War II.
They offer the New York market, and their basketball team would be competitive in a few short years with the ACC brand to recruit the New York talent. Their football stadium leaves a lot for the heart to desire, but with ACC money they should have the means to build one, or potentially use Yankee Stadium.
Now, the only thing to worry about is some school leaving the ACC. Florida State can be retained by reminding them that they are striving for AAU membership, and the SEC ain’t going to help them with that. No one really wants Clemson, or Miami for that matter. UVA should keep Virginia Tech in line, and if N.C. State wants to leave, the ACC should buy them luggage.
Ideally, the ACC would get the three Big East schools, Vandy and Fordham and lose N.C. State. As for why Rutgers should be left out, it is simple: because they are Rutgers and should have never existed in the first place.