Vulnerable, huh? The ACC crowns itself king of college hoops

"I don't know how to tell you this, Roy, but we've got company." (AP photo)

"Roy, I really don't know how to tell you this -- but we've got company." (AP photo)

The ACC faced a choice: Eat or be eaten. The league opted not just to grab something at the drive-thru but to dine in style. Only days ago we wondered if this conference could survive in a world powered by King Football. Today we hail John Swofford and his associates as the new monarchs of college basketball.

Bradley’s Rule: Better to be the king of something than the earl of everything.

The ACC’s grand football experiment hadn’t worked. Adding Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College didn’t hoist the ACC above/alongside the SEC. Truth to tell, the 12-team ACC was no better than fourth-best at football among the six BCS leagues. Worse, the ACC’s time-honored stock in trade had eroded to the extent that Duke and North Carolina has risen further above the basketball pack — North Carolina State reference partially intended — than ever.

The Big East now played better basketball, and several conferences played better football. What was to keep schools tied to Tobacco Road when other leagues came calling?

Be advised that the SEC has great interest in adding schools that can be deemed “flagships” in states that don’t already feature an SEC outpost. That would include three ACC members of more than a half-century’s standing — North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia. The SEC would have been happy to take two of those three and add Missouri to Texas A&M and become a 16-team league.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive is often described as the smartest man in college athletics, but here the ACC’s Swofford stole a march. He increased the exit fee for a school looking to leave his league to $20 million, and with the poaching of two Big Easterners he has lifted his league back to the top of the second-biggest college sport. Pitt and Syracuse have been known to play good football — Pitt had Tony Dorsett and Hugh Green and Dan Marino; Syracuse had Jim Brown and Ernie Davis and Donovan McNabb — but they don’t really change the ACC’s grid profile. They do, however, offer two more basketball tent-poles to array alongside Carolina and Duke.

With this move, the ACC cannot be viewed as prey. It’s a predator. If that sounds unseemly, so be it. To suggest that any conference should sit politely while every other league is grabbing hand over fist is to deny reality. The SEC and Big Ten and Big East would surely have made runs at ACC schools. What was Swofford supposed to do, play his violin while his league went up in smoke?

The ACC cast a cold eye on its assets and liabilities and saw a way to get bigger without necessarily getting better at football. That’s not bad form. That’s good business. And it’s clear in hindsight that we on the periphery undervalued another ACC selling point: It actually has good schools. Five ACC institutions — Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia — are members of the prestigious Association of American Universities, and Pitt makes six. (The SEC, by way of contrast, has three, and that’s counting Texas A&M.)

If you’re a college president looking to conference-hop, the thought of allying yourself with a league that isn’t just a repository of football factories can make for a softer landing. Indeed, UConn is believed to be exploring the possibility of an ACC leap. Last month we wondered who’d stay in Swofford’s league. Today we ask: Who else wants to join?

As an old college basketball hand, I’m encouraged to be reminded that football isn’t the driving force in every single matter pertaining to collegiate sports. (As a pragmatist, I’m also more than a bit surprised.) And if I’m Swofford, I wouldn’t stop here: I’d go hard at UConn and Louisville or even Kansas and brand this conference in hoops as the SEC has in football — as the standard so golden everyone else is trading in bronze.

Oh, and I have a message for Dan Radakovich, the Tech AD. The next time your phone rings, it will be Brian Gregory. He hasn’t yet coached a basketball game for you, and already he wants a raise.

By Mark Bradley

353 comments Add your comment

Scott

September 19th, 2011
2:29 pm

Dawg '85

September 19th, 2011
2:31 pm

Not saying it…

T-Bone

September 19th, 2011
2:32 pm

almost first

Will

September 19th, 2011
2:34 pm

No way SEC would have been remotely interested in Virginia or Maryland, and no way UNC would have left without Duke.

ormewood

September 19th, 2011
2:37 pm

I suppose it does, for now, make the ACC the best in hoops. It must be noted, however, that the coaches of Duke, UNC, and Syracuse, hall of famers all, will not be head coaches much longer. All are in their 60’s. Those are mighty big shoes to fill. SEC has younger coaches in Donovan and Calipari at the top of their game, plus some up-and-comers.

Greg

September 19th, 2011
2:38 pm

Times are changing in football. I guess you missed clemson whooping of auburn. tech crushing ku. and if maryland had their 2 best receivers who were out, they would have won. fsu played tough against ok and that was not a letdown for the conf at all.

Mark Bradley

September 19th, 2011
2:40 pm

Kudos, Scott.

Mark Bradley

September 19th, 2011
2:40 pm

And the SEC would have interest in all three of the ACC schools I noted. Believe it.

ramblingbuzz

September 19th, 2011
2:41 pm

Preemptive strike. ACC rules!

Dawg '85

September 19th, 2011
2:42 pm

Although I’m certain minor sports weren’t given an instant of consideration in this deal, there may be an interesting residual benefit for the sport of lacrosse, which is booming all over the country and the South in particular. Syracuse has been a lacrosse power since the Jim Brown days, and the ACC has four top lax programs already. As some new D-1 lax programs have already pioneered in the South, this may give GA Tech and/or VA Tech an opportunity to start D-1 programs. It won’t be immediate, but it certainly would make more sense with the new ACC alignment.

I know the focus will be on football and hoops (rightly so), but lacrosse will be the third largest college sport within the next generation.

Fred

September 19th, 2011
2:42 pm

If the Big East and Big 12 leftovers get together (which is likely), the resulting conference would have Kansas, UConn, Notre Dame, Louisville, Cincinnati, Georgetown, Marquette, Kansas State, Villanova, and St John’s.
I’d say *that* conference would be college hoops king.

Terrible Truth

September 19th, 2011
2:43 pm

They’re still the All Chumps Conference.

country boy

September 19th, 2011
2:44 pm

I say good riddance to the Big East – at least where football is concerned. Last year’s Fiesta Bowl was hardly a decent matchup with a good Oklahoma team easily beating an far inferior Conn. team by 4 touchdowns ( the game wasn’t even that close). I can only assume politics allowed the Big East an automatic BCS bowl game. The Mountain West plays better football than the Big East.

Ted M

September 19th, 2011
2:47 pm

I think Brian Gregory contract expires the same time Bruce Pearl’s exile in purgatory expires.

Greg

September 19th, 2011
2:51 pm

Forgot to mention miami crushing osu too

Todd

September 19th, 2011
2:53 pm

Yeah right fred. Not even close.

Luke

September 19th, 2011
2:54 pm

@Fred,

You’re assuming that the ACC is done. Don’t be surprised to see UConn, Rutgers, Villanova or West Virginia bolt for the ACC. Without UConn though, that list becomes a lot less frightening.

TexGT

September 19th, 2011
2:57 pm

While I am all for expanding the ACC, again we missed the mark – Texas was itching to join, which helps the ACC’s football, basketball, baseball, academic, and finacial prestige. It was a disgrace we didn’t get them to join, and instead took Pitt and SU. We are falling farther and farther behind in the football arms race, and that means farther behind in the revenue-generating race as well.

Todd

September 19th, 2011
2:57 pm

NC > Kansas–roy left remember
Duke > Uconn
maryland and cuse > than nova louisville gtown by virtue of winning a nat champ.
and pitt is greater than the rest left.
now we will really dominate the acc big 10 challenge.

Doug the Jacket

September 19th, 2011
2:58 pm

Mark, who would you add to the ACC to bring football up to the highest level of competition, ND & Texas? There is a rumor….

Hubert Green

September 19th, 2011
2:58 pm

Note to Syracuse and Pitt: there are North Carolina and Duke and then the rest. You will be learning that soon enough. It’s been that way for a long time.

GeoffDawg

September 19th, 2011
3:00 pm

Since when is AAU membership considered to be the only barometer for academic standing? It’s a worthwhile organization to belong to for sure but it seems awfully arbitrary to use that as the only academic standard by which to judge potential members. For example, as I understand it, the Big Ten will only accept AAU members into their conference but according to the US News and World Report rankings, Georgia, who is not an AAU member, is ranked ahead of half of the existing Big Ten schools.

Maybe someone can clarify this for me – what are the requirements for AAU membership and from an athletic expansion standpoint, what is the purpose of using this as a deciding factor instead of evaluating the quality of the school as a whole?

Mike

September 19th, 2011
3:04 pm

Orme
Those coaches will leave the sec and go fill any acc voids when they open.

better safe than sorry

September 19th, 2011
3:07 pm

Future final four…UConn, Kansas, UNC, Dook. And the winner and still champ: ACC

Jacket Man

September 19th, 2011
3:07 pm

My first calls are to Penn State and Notre Dame and see if they now have any interest in joining the ACC since the east coast is locked up. Bringing in those two schools brings in larger alumni bases and football credibility, although both have been somewhat down lately, and then when the ACC renegotiates their contracts with ESPN, they’ll easily be able to pull in the same type revenues the BIG and SEC have been commanding because the ACC will have some of the top TV markets in the country covered along with then huge fan base.

If you can’t get these two schools, leave Texas to the PAC 12 and lock up the east coast with UCONN and Rutgers, locking down the NY market. Their football programs will get better by necessity or compete with Duke and Virginia.

ee72

September 19th, 2011
3:10 pm

As I have still never kept up with or even occasionally checked on Boston College, I have been struck aghast that we added two more out-of-region teams. I see no reason to just consider basketball. The ACC is great as is, and if we are going to expand let’s do it where we can have some chance of going to games or adding a regional rivalry. Of all the teams that have been recently listed as moving or considered available, these are/were the last two on my list. Bummer

Herschel Talker

September 19th, 2011
3:10 pm

MB:

FIRE MARK RICHT!!! IT’S TIME TO CLEAN HOUSE

FIRE FREDI GONZALEZ!!! HE’S ANOTHER LOSER, LIKE HIS WADDLING PREDECESSOR!!! IT’S TIME TO CLEAN HOUSE THERE ALSO AFTER THE 2011 CHOKE IS COMPLETE!!!

HT

MP

September 19th, 2011
3:11 pm

The ACC is getting to the front of the exploitation line. Plantation executives (Presidents,AD’s and coaches) and universities are getting extremely rich through the use of athletes.

Wayne stuck in AL

September 19th, 2011
3:13 pm

Please John Swofford, take West Virginia so we won’t have to.

Signed,
Mike Slive.

Strange Murphy

September 19th, 2011
3:14 pm

Michael Vick!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Bill

September 19th, 2011
3:15 pm

Want to take a guess a who the existing SEC members of the AAU .One of them should be easy.Has to be Vanderbilt,I think the other one is Florida.

Herschel Talker

September 19th, 2011
3:15 pm

Oh yeah! I forgot to say that I’m a dumbarse!

Herschel Talker

September 19th, 2011
3:15 pm

And I like men!

Not Disappointed!

September 19th, 2011
3:15 pm

You have to admitt Mark, that the ACC did work this deal under the table. To be honest, I don’t look forward to Super Conferences!

GTville

September 19th, 2011
3:16 pm

If the second goal of the 4 Superconferences is to put the 4 conference champions into a 2 game playoff and crown a winner, then this whole thing makes sence and the ACC will get the opportunity to prove itself on the field; or not.

My bet is they are going to line up a playoff though. It will have 4 SEC teams, 2 Pac 12 and 1 each from the B1012 and ACC. 4 conference champs and 4 voted in by popularity, not by record against the same opponents.

Where is this all really heading?

Mike

September 19th, 2011
3:21 pm

This was a surprise move indeed. I had no idea that Big East schools were getting nervous, especially Syracuse and Pitt who have long been rumored as targets for the Big 10 expansion to 16. So now the Big East goes from an apparent position of power to possibly going under. If the Big 12 implodes as expected, the Big East could have picked up Missouri, Kansas, Kansas St., Iowa St. and Baylor to go with TCU as a western division. Now they need them to survive, especially if the SEC comes calling for WVU. Granted these are excellent basketball pick ups for the Big East, but it doesnt really do anything for their football standing. They might be losing their ACQ status.

Delbert D.

September 19th, 2011
3:22 pm

UConn is a great fit, Louisville is not due to academics. Maybe they will fill in the remaining hole in the map with Rutgers, which is an AAU member and across the river in Newark from Madison Square Garden. Coach K. and Roy Williams are ecstatic about these additions and a looking forward to the next 2, as written in the NY Times. After the current ACC Tournament contract expires, they are talking about Madison Square Garden as a rotating site.

Mike

September 19th, 2011
3:24 pm

So here’s an ironic thought. What if UConn and Rutgers go to the ACC as rumored, and WVU to the SEC. That leaves Louisville, South Florida, and TCU. If the Big East picks up Missouri, Kansas, Kansas St., Baylor, and Iowa St., then are they still the Big East? lol The Big East could actually end up playing all their football in the midwest.

Speed Racer

September 19th, 2011
3:26 pm

@Dawg ‘85: “…but lacrosse will be the third largest college sport within the next generation.” Let’s not have LAX leap college baseball just yet.

T3

September 19th, 2011
3:26 pm

1. UNC, Maryland, and Virignia will…NEVER…EVER…join the SEC. UNC and MD are DEFINITIVELY B-Ball schools, UVA is a football school.

However, what Bradley makes clear through intentional un-mention
here is that NCST is THE next target for the SEC. I agree, NCST is THE target.

2. Duke & UNC…DEEEEEEEEEEE-SPIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISE…UConn.
UConn will…NEVER…EVER…be allowed to join the ACC.

3. By adding Pitt & Syracuse, the ACC now has HUGE new TV markets
in NJ/NY area. Rutgers might add very little value.

4. Right now, PennState fan blogs are ON FIRE with excitement over the possibility of
PennState joining the ACC. If you dont think so, then go see/read it for yourselves.

PennState BEGGED the ACC for admission in the 1980s. Now is their chance again.
PSU has stronger rivalries/ties to Pitt. Syracuse, MD, WV, and BC than ANY/ALL
of the BIG10 teams.

PSU fans have ALWAYS complained about BIG10 road games. Closest road game now
is 500+ miles away. A move to the ACC would dramatically improve that. Paterno has ALWAYS maintained that he and PSU have considered themselves an Eastern/Atlantic Coast team, not a Mid-West team that the BIG10 roster mostly reflects.

Adding Nebraska in the West was really the LAST STRAW for PSU. The BIG10 has been promising PSU another “eastern” conference rival for 10+ years. Never happened. Fact is, PSU was pissed off at BIG10 for adding a West team. PSU is PREPARED to leave the BIG10 for the ACC..

5. Notre Dame has always considered themselves more “simialr” to PSU than ANY of
the BIG10 teams. If PennState joins the ACC, then the odds go sky-high that Notre Dame
will likely follow PSU to the ACC.

With the addition of PSU, ND, Syr, and PItt, the ACC will renogtitate their TV contracts
(which their current contract allows) for a MAJOR MAJOR money increase.

According to FORBES, the TOP 5 Most Valuable College Football Teams in order are:
1. Texas
2. Notre Dame
3. Penn State
4. Nebraska
5. Alabama

Mike

September 19th, 2011
3:26 pm

The other side is the Big 12 might cannibalize the remaining Big East football teams (TCU, Louisville, and South Florida). Then they could add Houston, SMU, BYU, and Boise St. to make a pretty solid new Big 12.

Dontavius Supremo

September 19th, 2011
3:27 pm

Well, the ACC IS a basketball conference, right? When FSU leaves to play football in the SEC (along with Clemson) you’ll have a conference oid empty stadiums on Saturday. If Ga Tech had brains they would beg to be re-admitted to the SEC; they’re good enough. Why hang on in a conferecne that despises football?

Delbert D.

September 19th, 2011
3:29 pm

Geoff Dawg – Georgia Tech was invited to join as the 61st member once its endowment reached $1 billion in 1968. Emory, another AAU member has an endowment of approximately $5 billion (it has slipped a bit in value, as all schools’ have due to the financial problems in the world.

GT Alum

September 19th, 2011
3:29 pm

I’d like to see the ACC take UConn to solidify its basketball dominance, but there’s got to be someone who brings more to the table than Rutgers, especially since ‘Cuse already gives us a foothold in the NY market. I’d prefer someone who brngs something to the table football-wise. ND is likely a pipe dream, and Texas was likely to either go independent or to the PAC with Tech and the OK schools. Not sure WV fits from an academic and culture standpoint. I think they’d fit better in the SEC. Don’t know much abou USF, but I’m guessing they’d be a similar fit to WV. Not sure who that leaves, though.

Mike

September 19th, 2011
3:31 pm

@T3, that’s an interesting possibility. PSU and Notre Dame to the ACC? I guess that would mean the Big East might still have a chance at staying together. I left out Cincinnati in my other ramblings about the Big East. So then does the Big 10 go after Missouri to replace PSU?

DP

September 19th, 2011
3:32 pm

UNC and Virginia would have never seriously considered joining the SEC, and neither of them, or Maryland, has an SEC caliber football program or fan base. The 3 ACC schools with large stadiums and fan bases that can compete in the SEC are Florida State, Virginia Tech and Clemson. All three of those have been better football programs than Texas A&M over the last 30 years. Given the direction things are going, the SEC needs to get over the aversion to taking a second school in a state where they already have one since Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi already have 2 schools each in the league. Put Texas A&M in the West, move Vandy from the East to the West, and add the 3 schools from the ACC to the East.

GTJeff

September 19th, 2011
3:34 pm

GeofDawg, GAWJA is a second tier University that couldn’t sniff getting accepted into the AAU.

From the AAU Website. Membership in AAU is by invitation and is based on the high quality of programs of academic research and scholarship and undergraduate, graduate, and professional education in a number of fields, as well as general recognition that a university is outstanding by reason of the excellence of its research and education programs.”

Unfortunately for Gawja, “Excellence in Partying 101″ is not listed as a requirment for admittance.

GeoffDawg

September 19th, 2011
3:35 pm

Thanks for the info Delbert. So, it’s only based on endowment? Yet another example of it paying to be well endowed.

Chris

September 19th, 2011
3:36 pm

Pitt and Cuse are great additions. The ACC needs to re-shuffle the divisions to create a North and a South division. This will breed great geographical rivalries.

North: Pitt, Cuse, Maryland, BC, VT, Virginia, Duke
South: GT, Clemson, FSU, Miami, NC State, NC, Wake

Make the Football Championship a home game in alternate years for each division.
If 2 more teams are added, go for West Virginia and Central Florida (anyone who believes the academic “fits” matter are crazy) Having West Virginia is all it would take to legitimize the North division in football. I’m glad the ACC took action.

ACCFan

September 19th, 2011
3:36 pm

I think it was a very smooth move.

And Mark, your line (”the ACC cannot be viewed as prey. It’s a predator”) is about as accurate as it comes.

I do also like the fact they raised the exit fee to $20M.

If you can’t win loyalty, at least you can buy it.

Gotta love the USA!