The ACC’s obituary was written many months ago. The Big 10–fresh off a harvest of Maryland and Rutgers–would be descending on the ACC and taking enough teams to get to 16, 18, 20, 0r 22. The issues were merely who and how many. Meanwhile, the only other issue was whether the ACC’s carcass would be feasted on by the Big XII and SEC at the same time, or whether these conferences would be waiting for the Big 10 to “choose” first. Well… and it is great to say… you couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead, as reported here and elsewhere yesterday, the ACC schools have decided to sign a grant of rights. Much like a grant of rights solidified the Big XII, this grant of rights also solidifies the ACC.
So what are the winners and losers with this announcement:
The ACC schools. The ACC is a conference of elite academic institutions. The Big 10 and Pac 12 are also conferences with elite academic institutions. Had the ACC broken up, it would be meant the dissolving of a fine partnership over athletics. There is something neat about having Boston College, Miami, Syracuse, and Duke all joined together in a conference. Add in Notre Dame and Wake Forest, and that is a nice collection of private institutions not seen in any other major conference. Meanwhile, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Pitt are excellent academic institutions on the public side. And Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, and North Carolina State continue to improve. The latter are, well, pretty good at football too. But the real win is that these schools adhered to the idea that the potential value of this conference should not be squandered in the hope of more money immediately. For once, someone left money on the table.
Syracuse, Wake Forest, Pitt, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Duke, Miami, and Louisville. In some scenarios, these schools would get left out of realignment. They avoided this fate, at least for now.
ESPN. ESPN was somewhere near the brink of potentially losing control of the eastern seaboard. Maryland and Rutgers were shuffling off to the midwest to be featured in the Big 10′s network jointly owned by Fox. If the Big 10 captured a few more, or several more, ACC schools… only the SEC could take on ACC schools–maybe 2?–to keep them under ESPN control. Maybe the SEC could have landed North Carolina and Duke. Or maybe they would have been “stuck” with North Carolina State and Virginia Tech. Good football schools, but schools overshadowed academically by their state flagship schools. And any ACC schools heading to the Big XII would move away from full ESPN control to partial ESPN control. Finally, if the Big 10 had gotten too big, ESPN would have had to pay dearly in 2015 to keep their rights. Frankly, keeping the ACC might have been a cheaper option.
Frank the Tank. The author of the best expansion blog on the Internet had been saying forever that the ACC was strong. The Maryland departure, and the echoes from some less-responsible bloggers regarding future Big 10 targets, made even Frank the Tank question just how strong. But at the end of the day, his belief in the ACC prevailed.
ACC Leadership. Questioned by many, the ACC home office seems a lot more competent today than they did 8 months ago.
The West Virginia Bloggers. Look, West Virginia got kind of a raw deal by being passed over for, ultimately, Louisville. Of course, when is the last time West Virginia won a national championship in hoops? In any event, few schools in the ACC had serious animosity toward West Virginia. Pitt, Syracuse, and Virginia Tech (and Maryland presumably) would have liked to see them in the ACC. Not the other way around. Fortunately, when that did not pan out, the Mountaineers ended up with a very soft landing in the Big XII. The response? Echoing the lack of class from the school’s athletic director (saying Navy was an upgrade over Syracuse in football), a few select bloggers made a name for themselves guaranteeing the destruction of the ACC. Not just that it was a possibility. No, these fools claimed that it was fact. Imminent fact. Well, folks, you are running out of time for that fact to come to fruition. So, while your imaginary sources may still whisper in your ear from time-to-time, the fifteen minutes of fame is over.
Some of the Frank the Tank Commentariat. Like something out of Willy Wonka, some of the commentariat over there acted like spoiled children. Person A: “NO, I want Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida State.” Person B: “NO, the Big 10 should take Georgia Tech, Boston College, Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, and Notre Dame.” Person C: “You folks think small… the Big 10 should take everyone except Syracuse, BC, Wake Forest, and Louisville. They should then take Texas, Florida, USC, and China. Look at that market share!!! We’ll be rich!” And so on. The Confidential understands that expansion is fun to talk about. But the degree to which “money” became the only statistic that matters was beyond absurd. Even if the Big 10 COULD make lots more money by adding in schools in great markets, there is more to this game than mere money. When the blog first started taking off, people ignored money. Now, money means too much. Money is nice… but there is something to be said for athletic prowess. At the end of the day, the SEC’s adds of Texas A&M and Missouri likely trump Rutgers and Maryland, on and off the field. That book has many more chapters to write. But let a few of them get written before declaring it a best seller.
UConn and Cincinnati. A poached ACC was an inviting home. A solid ACC? Not a great sign. Things can change though.
Expansion Fans. While the aforementioned speculation got carried away by some, the speculation sure was fun. This all started with the Big 10 looking for team #12. It ended with a 10-team Big 12 and a 14-team Big 10. Along the way, the Big East had teams in Idaho and California briefly. And now there is something that we cannot call the AAC. While the aftershocks of realignment will continue to ripple through the mid-major and minor conferences, the ACC’s Grant of Rights may just slow down expansion within the 5 power conferences. If so, things may not be as tense for ACC fans, but they will also be slightly less interesting.
What do you think? Any incorrect winners & losers? Anyone omitted? You tell us…