Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tudor's Take: Would BC leave the ACC?

Logically, this can be tossed into the "no way" file.

But just in case smoke is always an indication of fire, there's speculation within the Big East population that Boston College might listen to suggestions about returning.

The issue has been a casual topic almost from the day BC left to join the ACC. Of late, however, it's been given some attention by ESPN and a newspaper or two in the Northeast.

At a glance, it all sounds fairly preposterous, but so did those early reports in 2003 that the ACC would raid the Big East for BC, Miami and Syracuse, which was ready leave until Virginia Tech broke in line.

Money game

BC, a private school, eventually had to fork over a $1 million exit penalty to the Big East, plus $3 million in ACC initiation fees, when its jump was finalized in 2005.

In football and men's basketball, the switch has been productive enough on the field.

The football team has gone 21-11 in the league and played in the past two championship games (losing both). That's compared to 14-13 in its final four seasons of Big East competition.

The basketball team has gone 34-30 (skewed somewhat by 4-12 in '07-'08) in ACC regular-season games and have received three NCAA invitations. In their final four Big East seasons, Al Skinner's teams went 41-23 with three NCAA trips.

But on the travel front, the Eagles have done a ton of heavy lifting during a rapidly decaying economy that's unlikely to fully rebound soon. With a small fan base, BC's football teams have been shipped to Idaho, Charlotte, Orlando and Nashville, where they've won three times and fell 16-14 to Vanderbilt last season in their only loss.

At the same time, ACC schedules have done little to stoke emotion among BC fans, who understandably miss their games against old rivals, particularly Syracuse and Connecticut.

New deal time

As usual, the X-factor could be television contract negotiations. The eight Big East football coaches have been clamoring for expansion in their sport for the past two years. There's no question that adding ninth and 10th teams would significantly upgrade the league's football inventory.

The rub, of course, is what to do about the already overloaded 16-school basketball membership. But have no fear, if the money's right, the minds will get right.

Meanwhile, the ACC is sorting through its presentation packages for football and basketball contracts that will expire after the 2010-11 school year.

The current football deal ($258 million over seven years) could be difficult to exceed unless ACC teams have more national success this season than of late. The roughly $300 million basketball contract should get bump, primarily because North Carolina has won two of the past five NCAA championships and came close to grabbing a third.

But overall, the additions of Miami and Boston College haven't made huge television impacts nationally or regionally. Virginia Tech's football team has been a valuable commodity by giving the ACC at least a reasonable national presence at a time when Florida State, Miami and Clemson have slipped.

There's also the matter of possible low ceilings for BC and Miami in football. In short order, the Eagles have gone from Tom O'Brien to Jeff Jagodzinski to career defensive assistant Frank Spanziani on the sideline.

Miami has gone from Larry Coker to Randy Shannon while failing to post a double-digit win total since 2003. Since joining the ACC, the Hurricanes are 20-20 in the league and have won only two of their past 12 games against ranked opponents.

Odds are, the ACC's status quo will be maintained as it enters Phase II of TV life as a 12-team conference. But don't expect the second-guessing at Boston College and elsewhere in the league to wane as the expansion saga - and surprises - continue to unfold.

-- Caulton Tudor, (Raleigh) News & Observer