Bear Bryant used to end his Sunday night television show with these words: “Don’t forget to call your Mama. I wish I could call mine.” I was lucky to be with my Mama on Sunday in Madison, Ga. Hope you had a great Mother’s Day as well.
The ACC Spring Meetings begin today at the lovely beach-front Ritz-Carlton Hotel at Amelia Island. Think the Big Ten’s possible expansion plans will come up? Yes it will because there are some athletics directors who are going to sit in the day’s first meeting with commissioner John Swofford and want to know three things: 1) What do we expect the Big Ten to do? 2) How do we expect the SEC to react? 3) What is our plan if No. 1 and No. 2 both happen?
It wasn’t that long ago that the ACC was expanding and dipping into the Big East for three teams (Miami, Boston College, Virginia Tech). The ACC was the aggressor in an effort to expand to 12 teams and bulk up its status as major player in football.
It hasn’t been a failure as some detractors would suggest, but neither has it been the rousing success that the football forces in the ACC had hoped. Florida State and Miami, which were placed in separate divisions to maximize their punch, are still struggling to get back on the national stage. The conference championship game has been a mixed bag, depending on the matchup. The ACC remains the only conference of the Big Six not to place two teams in BCS bowls in the same season. The landscape of college football has changed dramatically since the ACC last expanded.
The ACC did get a good initial TV contract from expansion but that contract ends after the 2010-2011 season. The ACC is in the midst of its negotiation for a new football deal and the numbers that are being offered, I’ve been told, are not particularly good given the marketplace, where the economy is down and the Big Ten and SEC are sucking up about 50 percent of the available dollars. Don’t be surprised if the ACC brings on another TV partner, like Fox or the NFL Network, hoping to generate more revenue.
The fact is that the ACC is as vulnerable right now as the Big East was back in 2003. Here’s why:
If the Big Ten expands to 16 teams the SEC may feel the need to follow suit. The SEC could look to the ACC and take some teams (like Florida State) to solidify its Southern footprint.
Here is another item that should concern you as an ACC fan. My buddy Blair Kerkoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the Pac-10 and Big 12 are having discussions about the possibility of forming an alliance and negotiating their TV deals as one unit. Together they would have more clout (and more television sets) than individually.
Here are the facts, folks, and I hope my friends in the ACC are reading this down in Amelia Island. If the Big Ten goes to 16 teams, the Big East is going to be out of the football business. The SEC and the Big Ten dominate the marketplace. They will get their money while the Pac-10, Big 12, and ACC are going to be scrambling for what’s left.
If those three conferences don’t already have contingency plans in place, they had better put them together—and fast. I know that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has said his expansion plans are still in a 12-18 month window. I don’t believe that and there are some very smart people who work in this business who don’t believe it either.
Because once the Big Ten makes its move, this thing is going to move very quickly. It’s going to be like a high-stakes game of musical chairs and somebody may get left without a quality seat, financially speaking, at the college football’s Big Boy table. And that could be our friends at the ACC.
Please follow me on Twitter: