May 30, 2012
With news a few weeks back that the Big 12 and SEC were planning a major bowl game tie-in similar to the Big Ten and Pac 12 Rose Bowl, all sorts of guns were jumped in relegating the ACC to the Big East’s status. And when rumors floated that Florida State and/or Miami and Clemson could soon exit the conference for presumably greener pastures in the Big 12, the ACC’s death was all but written on a tombstone.
The only problem was that common sense was somehow lost in the melee.
The biggest factor is that considering Florida State, Clemson, and Miami all but gone is really taking a leap of faith. While it’s well known that Florida State wasn’t exactly in a state of euphoria about the ACC’s new long-term deal with ESPN, it’s still no guarantee they’re leaving the conference. Florida State is a better fit geographically in the ACC and all three leaving is an even bigger long shot.
Here’s one fact often forgotten in this whole mess. Many will quickly point to the schools’ distaste for North Carolina and Duke receiving special treatment in the ACC, but the trio would quickly discover that Texas reigns supreme in the Big 12. If they think they’d receive much more respect in a midwestern conference where Texas and Oklahoma are considered kings, they’ve got another thing coming.
The concern amongst fans of other ACC teams about the conference being left out of the discussion when it comes to playing in a potential playoff pitting four teams is also a bit misguided. Those making decisions in college football already get a ton of heat for not making the national championship open to enough schools. So now, they’re going to risk litigation by shutting out even more programs? Sorry, I just don’t see it. Right now, there are six power conferences that receive automatic bids – the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, ACC, and Big East. If the ACC were left out of a playoff scenario, you can bet that the Big East would have no shot at it as well. It’s difficult to imagine a national championship playoff with even fewer teams given access.
Florida State, Clemson, and Miami should all recognize this. Problem is, though, there’s another factor in play – money. If those schools can make considerably more money in the Big 12 or SEC, they’d almost certainly consider it.
So with that in mind, let’s set up a hypothetical situation – say all three leave the conference … then what? Technically, I still think the ACC could survive. While those three are a large part of the conference, the basketball side of things would remain virtually unaffected. With North Carolina, Duke, Pitt, and Syracuse still around, the ACC would continue to be one of the most dominant basketball conference in college basketball. That’s got to count for something, right?
Football drives the bus, though, and I get it. The simple fact is that if all three bolted, the conference could be in serious trouble. But Virginia Tech has been the class of the conference on the gridiron and the ACC would still have them as a foundation. There’s also Georgia Tech, Pitt, North Carolina State, Virginia, North Carolina, Boston College, and Maryland. All of those teams have had solid seasons in recent memory and while none are powerhouses, there’s enough talent there to justify a playoff spot being given to an undefeated team. The ACC could also try to pluck additional mid-card schools such as UConn, Louisville, or Rutgers from the Big East. Smirk all you want at that group of schools, but the Huskies and Cardinals would bring even more basketball talent to the conference and Rutgers would include more eyeballs in the attractive New York/New Jersey market.
It’s still entirely too early to figure out how all of this plays out. But the safe bet is that the ACC stays alive throughout all of this.