Is the ACC doomed? Hardly, and here are the reasons why

OK, so it isn't football, but it's still an off-tackle dive play. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

OK, so it isn't football, but it's still an off-tackle dive play. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Let’s be clear: The ACC has work to do. But that’s not nearly the same as being doomed, which is how some have characterized the conference after the double hit of Florida State’s (apparently overstated) flirtation with the Big 12 and the announcement of the SEC/Big 12 New Year’s Day bowl. As a public service, we attempt to distinguish flaming hyperbole from colder reality.

The ACC needs to tie itself to a big new bowl. This part is true. Indeed, this is essential. The chance of the champions from the SEC and the Big 12 being omitted from the presumptive four-team BCS playoff is small; the chance of an ACC titlist not making the final cut is rather larger. (No ACC team has played for the BCS title since Florida State in 2000, which was so long ago that Mark Richt was the Seminoles’ offensive coordinator.)

To be considered viable, the ACC cannot have its champ landing in, say, the Champs Sports Bowl. Nobody knows how the postseason matrix will look two years down the road — will existing bowls become part of the BCS tournament? — but the ACC can’t wait. It must find itself a worthy partner. That partner need not be the Big East, the least of the Big Six football leagues. Better for the ACC to forge an alliance with the runner-up from the Big Ten or the Pac-12 or even the SEC than to be doomed to a decade of playing Cincinnati. (Pie-in-the-sky scenario: The ACC aligns itself, bowl-wise, with Notre Dame.)

Florida State is already gone. Not true. Not even close. This whole kerfuffle resulted from Andy Haggard telling Warchant.com that the Board of Trustees “would be in favor of seeing what the Big 12 has to offer.” But ESPN obtained a memo written by FSU president Eric Barron that outlined the pros and cons of such a move, and the cons outnumbered the pros 7-4. Not least: “The faculty are adamantly opposed to joining a league that is academically weaker.”

The Big 12 needs Florida State more than FSU needs the Big 12. Even after adding West Virginia and TCU, the Big 12 is up to only 10 members. Any school considering Big 12 relocation must grasp that the Big 12 exists to prop up Texas. From Barron’s memo: “Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M left the Big 12 at least in part because the Big 12 is not an equal-share conference. Texas has considerably more resource avenues and gains a larger share (and I say this as a former dean of the University of Texas at Austin).”

Florida State joined the ACC in 1991 for two reasons: Better academics and a clearer path to the football national championship. All that has changed is that Florida State hasn’t lately held up its football end. Were the Seminoles still going 12-0 or 11-1, they’d be in the BCS title mix. Rightly or wrongly, the Seminoles are still seen as the ACC’s football factory. In the Big 12, they’d stand third behind Texas and Oklahoma. Would that be an upgrade?

ACC commissioner John Swofford should again don his poacher’s hat. As unseemly as this sounds, it’s a pragmatic truth. The league will expand to 14 teams when Syracuse and Pittsburgh arrive, and it needs to grow more — and only in part because of football.

Swofford’s theft of Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Big East changed the balance of basketball power. The ACC reclaimed first place in that derby, and for as much money as football generates we cannot forget that basketball is itself an attractive commodity. Simple math: The football season lasts roughly four months; the basketball season runs from mid-November to early April, which is closer to five months. And basketball teams play 30-some games, as opposed to 12 or 13, making for many more programming opportunities.

Swofford should go hard at UConn and Louisville, schools that graced the past two Final Fours and play competitive football. (Kansas would be a target if it hadn’t pledged to forfeit Big 12 TV money if it leaves.) Those two would stretch the ACC map and would make this the basketball league to end all basketball leagues. Marketing slogan: “You might not want to coach here, but you’ll darn sure watch our games!”

Such a course might seem counter-intuitive, but better for the ACC to play to its strength than a perceived weakness. Realistically, what available schools would burnish the ACC’s football image? (Notre Dame, maybe?) That doesn’t mean the league can’t survive: Not if its champ is given a chance to play for the BCS title when a chance is warranted; not if its champ is assured a profitable bowl home if it doesn’t make the four-team playoff, and not if good football is paired with great basketball.

One thing more: This isn’t the first time we’ve wondered if the ACC is bound for oblivion. But a check of history shows that the conference hasn’t lost a member since 1971, when Frank McGuire tired of his South Carolina Gamecocks getting beat in the ACC tournament. This league isn’t as bold and brassy as the SEC, but in its understated way it hangs tough. It’s not going away just yet.

By Mark Bradley

401 comments Add your comment

And if I remember correctly...

May 23rd, 2012
11:14 am

,,,that FSU offense led by Mark Richt scored a mighty 0 points in that last BCS title game back in 2000 – shades of things to come, for both UGA and the Falcons (as the ‘Noles scored 2 points in that game)…

Gravy Train

May 23rd, 2012
11:18 am

Further expansion at this point will further water down an already diluted product. In football terms, the ACC has become known for weak teams and boring games.

Gravy Train

May 23rd, 2012
11:20 am

I hear Tech thought about leaving until they realized that no one else wanted them.
Fear the Turkey Neck

TIGERCLAW

May 23rd, 2012
11:24 am

Weak teams and boring games? Gravy Train….. C’MON MAN

Gravy Train

May 23rd, 2012
11:26 am

In other news, Tech just botched another game and West Virginia just scored again.

Tim Tebow's Tears

May 23rd, 2012
11:27 am

I think you’re on point Mr. Bradley. Well said. I’m sick of all the crazy rumors out there. Can make a man cry…

Outside Observer

May 23rd, 2012
11:30 am

Kansas plays creditable football. That made me laugh. Their days of playing in BCS bowls seem like a distant memory to one of the worst defenses in college football last year.

wes

May 23rd, 2012
11:32 am

If I was Swofford I would go hard after Notre Dame and Louisville.

Peach Fuzz

May 23rd, 2012
11:33 am

If UNC turns things around under Fedora(I noticed tha they had 5 named all-ACC pre-season, tied with CU, and 2013 recruiting near top10 so far), together w/FSU , Miami, UVa, and NCSU (all of these programs showing strong upside, along w/already good CU and VaTech (GaTech also has strong upside, ACC could wind up possibly as best conference . And if ND joins – look out!

wes

May 23rd, 2012
11:34 am

…and “Kansas”, Mark?

How big is that market? Much rather have Notre Dame or Penn State for that matter (two long shots…albeit Notre Dame is probably more likely than many would give the ACC credit for).

macrotech

May 23rd, 2012
11:35 am

In even MORE news, Gravy Train spoke and stupid fell out….again

GTBob

May 23rd, 2012
11:38 am

The ACC won’t die and honestly, I would rather GT stay in a basketball heavy ACC then move to an across the nation conference full of football factories. If FSU and Clemson want to bolt, more power to them, and I wish them the best of luck.

Brave Hokie

May 23rd, 2012
11:43 am

Other than some ACC team playing like a Top 4 BSC team {at least other than VT ’cause I have all but given up on us showing up in a big out of conference game} the ACC needs to be more creative about the approach to post-season bowls or whatever is coming next. The Orange Bowl versus the BE is not a worthy goal.

I would luv to see the ACC stick together, but I feel Swofford is more concerned with baby blue basketball than financially competing with the big boys.

FYI: the only ACC team who finished in the BCS Top 4 since the F$U heydays: VT in ‘07.

We are what we are: a nice little conference.

Supersize that order, mutt

May 23rd, 2012
11:43 am

Notre Dame or nobody. PERIOD !!!

Sourgrapes

May 23rd, 2012
11:44 am

Recruit the schools that fit the ACC’s academic profile – Notre Dame and Rutgers maybe?

Supersize that order, mutt

May 23rd, 2012
11:44 am

@ Mark……”not hardly”??? Surely, you know better than that. LOL

Waynecheck

May 23rd, 2012
11:45 am

ACC just needs Notre Dame and one of Louisville, Rutgers, Kansas or even Navy (that way ND could keep its long rivalry with Navy and ACC could tout Navy’s academics) and it will be here to stay.

DooleyDoo

May 23rd, 2012
11:47 am

Just looking at caliber of schools in ACC, together w/their overall sports programs, I’d opt for ACC every time.

Sourgrapes

May 23rd, 2012
11:47 am

Wayne, I had forgotten about Navy. That would be a great pick up, too.

I’m dead set against picking up a school that is not on the Atlantic Coast (Kansas). It’s just as silly as the Southeastern Conference taking Missou. Or the Big East taking TCU.

Jefferson Davis Hogg

May 23rd, 2012
11:50 am

These rumors are becoming more and more of late about an ACC break up. Just the other day on a local radio sports talk show they were reporting that every single member of the ACC (even GT within the last 2 months) was in some kind of negotiations with other conferences as kind of a back up plan…..Don’t know but where there’s smoke……..

Marylander

May 23rd, 2012
11:52 am

1) Kansas is locked into the Big 12 for at least the next six years because Big 12 conference members have granted their television rights to the conference. If Kansas leaves the Big 12 for the ACC, the Big 12 gets to keep the television dollars generated by the Kansas in the ACC for the next six years.
2) Florida State stands to make significantly more money in the Big 12 than in the ACC. They could make $3 million more per year in the Big 12 right today, $1-2 million more per year when the Big 12 renegotiates their television contract because of the change in membership, $1-2 million more per year with addition of a Big 12 championship game, and anywhere from $1-5 million per year from selling their 3rd tier television rights (the ACC contract includes 3rd tier in the totals, the Big 12’s does not).

Adam

May 23rd, 2012
11:54 am

You people are delusional.

The ACC is finished. Done. Accept this and move on.

FSU and Clumpson are gone. GT, VT, and NC State are begging the SEC and/or Big 12 to take them too. Mark Bradley actually thinks Kansas would consider jumping from the Big 12 to the ACC? That’s so far beyond laughable, it isn’t even funny. The Big 12 pays tons more money, and is going to have a 13 year Grant of Rights signed. You see, there’s a reason why the ACC doesn’t have a Grant of Rights: half of the teams are desperate to leave.

Best case scenario for the ACC football champ: a date in the Belk Bowl against the Big East, MAC, or Sun Belt champ.

Run along now.

Matt

May 23rd, 2012
11:56 am

FSU, Clemson, VT, GT, and Miami — ALL of them are approaching the Big 12 about leaving. Check out Orangebloods.com. The ACC is going down. Once they lose 1-2 teams to the Big 12, the Big Ten will snatch up UVA, Maryland and maybe Ga Tech. Then the SEC takes VT and Clemson or NC State (probably the latter because USC will block Clemson and it gets the SEC into North Carolina). You’ve lost the meat of the conference by then and the rest will have to merge with the Big East to survive. Bye bye.

follow the money

May 23rd, 2012
11:57 am

mark, how will this basketball focused conference compete financially with the other programs over the long haul? numbers are numbers. football is what butters the bread for the vast majority of big programs. Eventually, the football schools will have better basketball facilities because they will have the funds to support both. This without considering the effects of the money on the competitiveness of the other olympic sports. where will the basketball focused conferences be in 20 years? look to the metro conference…

Sourgrapes

May 23rd, 2012
11:58 am

OMG if it’s on the interwebs it must be true!

Supersize that order, mutt

May 23rd, 2012
11:58 am

Najeh, for someone who apparently doesn’t even realize that Tech has a state-of-the-art basketball arena opening in November, I would say you are the loser here.

Reality

May 23rd, 2012
11:58 am

Adam, you are just as delusional as FSU and CU fans who dare to think those schools would flee the ACC. Those schools do have intelligent Presidents, unlike many of their fans.

Bounty Hunter

May 23rd, 2012
11:59 am

All I remember is that bleeding victory formation.

Supersize that order, mutt

May 23rd, 2012
11:59 am

Adam…..I can assure you that Clemson is not going anywhere.

Sourgrapes

May 23rd, 2012
12:00 pm

Money? Basketball is a better ROI for most schools than football. Football is insanely expensive. Basketball is cheaper to run. Not being the SEC in football is not going to kill any conference. I know that hurts you SEC homers, but it’s true.

Joe

May 23rd, 2012
12:01 pm

Out of the box, the most powerful largest conferences will survive.

Size is not our issue, but power appears to be. Size (at 10 teams) is a huge issue for the Big 12. We need to be agressive and expand to 16-20 teams to be the first mega-conference. If we lock up Rutgers, UCONN, Cincy, Louisville, and say Kansas and Iowas State we have created the first mega-conference. The Big 12 will now be down to 8 teams without many options for expansion. 8 teams just won’t get it done long term.

Second critical point is to establish incentives for teams that finish higher in football to share a larger piece of the pie (since football revenue is critical).

This WILL be the elite basketball conference and if the rest of the country shuts us out of Football, we will follow suit and refuse to play the Big 12, Big 10, SEC, or PAC12 in regular season basketball…PERIOD….if we are not given a place at the table.

Supersize that order, mutt

May 23rd, 2012
12:01 pm

For all you nutcases bragging on the Big 12, Missouri and Texas A&M left for a reason. And that reason, in one word, is TEXAS. Texas does what Texas wants, and nobody else in the Big 12 matters.

Mike

May 23rd, 2012
12:02 pm

Mark, the ACC is not doomed, but they probably will get raided by the Big 12. Football just isnt working out. FSU held up the conference for over a decade, but has not been able to regain the magic. Miami was supposed to help, but collapsed themselves. They have often not even been competitive at the BCS level and have one win to their resume. The MWC has a better BCS resume than the ACC.

As for FSU and other ACC schools to the Big 12, this is how the conference takes the keys back from Texas. Bring in a national name brand like FSU, maybe Miami, some solid football schools like Clemson, Ga Tech or Va Tech, and suddenly Texas doesnt have the leverage anymore.

FSU and others would most definitely benefit from Big 12 membership. Its reputation is far better, and it would open up the state of Texas for recruiting. The competition would be a leg up too. Its the closest they will get to being able to compete with the SEC name brand during recruiting.

Reality

May 23rd, 2012
12:05 pm

Those proclaiming the demise of ACC are just whistling in the dark. There is a lot of jealousy among SEC followers, primarily because ACC schools attract better students across the board, and many students at SEC schools were denied admission to Duke, UNC, Wake, and UVa.

Sourgrapes

May 23rd, 2012
12:07 pm

Exactly, Supersize. Don’t forget Colorado and Nebraska the year before. Big 12 is going to end up being Texas + whatever other teams don’t mind losing to Texas.

Franklin27

May 23rd, 2012
12:09 pm

Funny thing about Kansas, they were begging to get picked up by the ACC a year ago when OK was talking to the PAC. Honestly, in hind sight, the ACC should have expanded west and not East. The Big East was never a threat to them, while any conference with Texas is a threat. But now….. I can’t see a reason for anyone in the Big 12 to leave, especially to a league that could lose some of their most profitable programs.

Sourgrapes

May 23rd, 2012
12:09 pm

Najeh, then you’ve proven your ignorance. Goodbye.

GTFAN

May 23rd, 2012
12:11 pm

Mark, what do you think about all these rumors about Tech joining the SEC due to history, tradition, and location. I feel like it wouldn’t be a bad idea. The move would finally help us a little bit in the recruiting department, but I do not think the school would be okay with the drop in academics.

Sourgrapes

May 23rd, 2012
12:13 pm

GTFan, I can’t see Tech *or* UGA going for that.

Boise Dawg

May 23rd, 2012
12:13 pm

Joe not one of the teams you mentioned helps the ACC as a football conference…. which is where the big $$ comes from. Adding UCONN and Louisville makes some sense to get to 16 and it would kill what is left of the Big East… but the rest of the teams you named add very little value to the ACC and would only dilute the revenue for everyone else.

Instead of 4 or 5 megaconfernces… I would prefer to see the conferences get smaller and have 8 different regional conferences. This could pave the way to an eventual 8 team playoff. Forget a conference championship. Smaller regional conferences… and everyone in the conference plays each other in the regular season .

Supersize that order, mutt

May 23rd, 2012
12:15 pm

Najeh, you would probably be stupid enough to see the construction at One Trade Center in NY and not realize it’s not what you see on the outside that matter; it’s what is on the inside. Even before the rebuilding of Tech’s basketball arena, it was still a better place to see a basketball game than Phillips Arena is, and it’s infinitely better than the barn in Athens

Mike

May 23rd, 2012
12:16 pm

I’m not sure why everyone thinks this is a fantasy. Football is where the money is at. This four team playoff plus the Big12/SEC game has everyone reading the writing on the wall. Do you really think the ACC champ is going to get a taste of any of this?

Texas has been a problem for the Big 12, but that’s because they currently have name brand leverage. Bringing in FSU changes all that. If they bring in Ga Tech, that brings the Atlanta TV market as leverage. Miami also brings in name brand and the South Florida TV market. Va Tech brings DC. They could likely tell Texas to pound sand at that point because it would be far more lucrative for Texas to swallow their pride and work a new deal with the Big 12.

Supersize that order, mutt

May 23rd, 2012
12:17 pm

GTFAN, I think most Tech fans would like to get back in the SEC, but UGA will never allow it. I don’t what they fear about having Tech in it, but Dooley essentially blocked our re-entry in the 80s (or maybe late 70s), when he abstained on the final vote.

Sourgrapes

May 23rd, 2012
12:19 pm

Dawg – I don’t think every school has the same blessing that UGA, Texas, OSU, etc. have with football revenues. Football is a huge expense and a lot of schools have a bit of trouble covering the costs.

The problem with the smaller conferences (and I’d like to see smaller conferences feeding into a national championship bracket, personally) is that ESPN and CBS aren’t going to throw big money contracts at small conferences, I wouldn’t think.

I mean, how would you split up the SEC in a way that keeps that big money flowing into both sides of the split?

Delbert D.

May 23rd, 2012
12:19 pm

Mark – How about unblocking my post of 5 minutes ago. It wasn’t that long.

Reality

May 23rd, 2012
12:21 pm

I see no need for ACC to add members. But, if it did I wud want ND and Vandy or Northwestern.

DooleyDoo

May 23rd, 2012
12:22 pm

UGa would profit from being in ACC.

i see that mcdonalds third shift

May 23rd, 2012
12:25 pm

let out early and najeh and the rest of the dawgs are posting in full force.

najeh we reallize that due to your working conditions you only get out in the early morning so it is understandable that you wouldnt see what is going on on the tech campus.

not only do we have a state of the art football indoor practice field. (one of only a handful in the country) but we have similar practice courts for basketball and a brand new mc tit as well.

the only thing saved from the old mctit was the roof. but hey we understand that you and your dawgy friends are jealous. if i had to play at a stadium fondly referred as the cesspool for the stench i tooo would be jealous.

for years and years uga has tried to figure out why their stadium has a lingering stench. after reading all those articles about the uga fans urinating and dedicating in class rooms and the library on the uga campus i do think we have our answer.

you uga dawgs crack me up.

i see that mcdonalds third shift

May 23rd, 2012
12:26 pm

has let out and the dawgs are posting in full force now.

Delbert D.

May 23rd, 2012
12:26 pm

Mark, c’mon; unblock my post. I can’t resubmit it because it’s a duplicate comment.