Thursday, May 20, 2010

ACC should stay at 12

In a column earlier this week, colleague Tom Sorensen wrote that the ACC needs to expand again and suggests West Virginia, Cincinnati and Louisville as targets.

Sorensen is right about 90 percent of the time, especially when forecasting draft picks the Charlotte Bobcats should have made. As he often mentions, he wrote in 2006 that the Bobcats should draft Brandon Roy and in 2005 that they should trade up to get Chris Paul. Imagine how good the Bobcats would be if they'd followed Sorensen's advice.

But Sorensen isn’t right this time. Adding some combination of West Virginia, Cincinnati and Louisville might enhance football in the conference a bit, but staying at 12 makes sense for the ACC now.

Let’s assume the expected television deal with ESPN worth in the neighborhood of $150 million to $155 million per year is announced soon. If and when that happens, the ACC can remain fiscally competitive with (though not quite equal to) the SEC (whose deals are worth $205 million a year) and the Big Ten (which is tapping into a potential gold mine with its own TV network).

The ACC can do it without adding more schools that would have to share its money, and the TV revenue it will generate will be enough to keep schools from defecting. Although forecasting how the college athletic “seismic shift” will occur is dangerous, here’s a best guess for how it will turn out:

1. Notre Dame will stay independent. As long as it has its own, lucrative television network contract and doesn’t have to share that money with anyone else, there’s little incentive for the Irish to move. The only thing that could change that would be a collapse of the Big East that left Notre Dame without a conference for its other sports. But the Big East is not going to collapse.

2. Missouri will join the Big Ten. This would add the valuable St. Louis and Kansas City TV markets for the Big Ten Network to target and increase revenue. But Jim Delany will be savvy enough to realize that Rutgers won’t bring a substantial share of the New York TV market and that Nebraska doesn’t have enough TV sets in the entire state to be a strong addition. The Big Ten will become 12.

3. The Big 12 will get back to 12. There will be some minor rejiggering out west to address Missouri's departure. Perhaps Texas Christian will join the Big 12. Perhaps the Pac-10 will add some teams (Brigham Young? Colorado?). But all this will have little effect in the Southeast, and no 16-team superconferences will evolve.

4. This includes the SEC. There’s talk that if the Big Ten gets bigger, the SEC will expand, too. But again, the money is what talks here. Even if the SEC invites more teams, it’s unlikely to be able to renegotiate its TV deals that CBS and ESPN overpaid for two summers ago right before the recession hit. So there’s little incentive for the SEC to expand and add some combination of Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami, as some have suggested.

5. The ACC will stay at 12, too. The Big Ten won’t want Boston College, and the Big East doesn’t have enough money to pry away Boston College from the ACC. The SEC doesn’t need Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech or Miami to get into the markets in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida because it already has a strong presence in those states. Besides, remember that college presidents make these decisions. Clemson fans would love to have Alabama and LSU coming to Death Valley instead of Duke and Wake Forest, but there is value in being associated with schools with high graduation rates. College administrators, faculty and some alumni understand this, and it’s what makes the ACC (with schools such as Duke, Wake Forest, Boston College, North Carolina and Virginia) strong.

6. That’s why Sorensen’s suggestion is a flop. According to figures for 2009, the four-class average graduation rates for the overall student populations were 55 percent at West Virginia, 52 percent at Cincinnati and 42 percent at Louisville. Those numbers are far behind the lowest rate for an ACC school (Florida State, 68 percent) for the same period. That doesn’t mean West Virginia, Cincinnati and Louisville are bad schools; their missions and clientele are different from those of Duke and Wake Forest. But adding them to the ACC doesn’t increase the conference’s academic profile. That’s important to college presidents, and it should be important to alumni, too.

Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

In this age, it always comes back to money. W/ the Big Ten network revenue, Northwestern had a bigger TV $$ take than Notre Dame. Northwestern got $22 million in TV revenue last year. The "lucrative" Notre Dame deal isn't as great as it once was.

David said...

Ultimately, it should always be the college presidents and (hopefully alumni) that make these decisions.

If the money pressures continue to increase at the present rate, colleges will be hard pressed to compete except at a select 10 to 15 programs.

To compete in the "Big Sports," college athletic programs will become nothing but "licensed brands" totally disconnected from the institutions. I fear ESPN and others are fast moving us down this path.

As a graduate of an ACC school and an active member in its booster club, (i.e. I send them money!) personally, I don't want to do the things that some schools do in order to maintain a certain level of athletic competiveness. It's just not worth the price.

JAT said...

Whew. This is gonna take some time to correct.

1 -- ...the Big East is not going to collapse....

Provided it only loses Rutgers/Pitt to the Big Ten as Penn St.'s long coveted "eastern rival." Not the only possible outcome, however.

2 -- ...Missouri bla blah blah...

Ken, buddy. This not the rabbit-ear era. TV markets per se do not matter, not when you are sitting there with a cash machine like the Big Ten network which merely needs PRODUCT to sell to ALUMNI. For that reason it is precisely Nebraska and Rutgers which could do bang up numbers for the Big Ten -- tons of alumni living all across the country. Mizzo merely evens things out, checks the SECs TV creep up the backdoor via ITS TV package, which was tremendously popular in the border states last year.

Also, understand that Neb. is completely fed up with a Big 12 it feels is now tilted toward Texas. Culturally it has much more in common with Big Ten schools. IF the Big Ten expands, I guarantee the Cornhuskers are part of it.

3-4 -- No. If the Big 12 loses two teams, guess who the SEC comes calling on?


Mack Brown will not like the idea of a tougher sked, but we are talking long-term and tens of millions of dollars. Mack is winding down. The admin will listen. The legislature will get involved. Oklahoma will get involved. Bottomline, we saw a state government basically force the ACC to take VPI. Do not rule anything out and the path to a 16 team SEC -- with Texas, A&M, OK, and Oak St in a Western Division -- is visible, if not likely.

5 -- "The ACC will stay at 12, too." Correct, but for the wrong reason. The Gboro mafia thinks they just the lotto with the admittedly better than expected S-PIN deal. They are fat and happy and think themselves geniuses. They have status quo practically stamped on their foreheads.

6 -- But failing to expand now -- especially if the Big East falls apart -- would be dumb. WVa and UConn would add natural rivals and decent programs in the big revenue sports. Are they the academic equal of boutique schools like dook, Wake, even Miami to some extent? No. But failure to act now could mean the ACC is reduced to reaching for South Florida and/or Louisville in the years ahead.

Oh, and just think if UNCC had started football 5 yrs. earlier when it should have -- it could be in the mix for a reconstituted Big East slot when the music stops. Oh well, Judy. Good thing no one is paying attention.

704Champ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
704Champ said...

Optimally, we should've stayed at 8 or 9. In a perfect world I'd like to have no more than 9 teams in the ACC, because in football you could play every team, and in basketball you could play both a home and away game versus every team.

Sadly, thats just wishful thinking and we'll never go back to the way it used to be.

Sam said...

WV has a famously loyal fan base. They consistently put butts in seats for home and away games. Also, 2 of the highest ESPN rated games in history were WV.

The ACC should come calling ASAP.

Natural fit. Great TV ratings. Loyal fan base, many of which are now located in the Carolinas.

Anonymous said...

West Virginia would be a great addition from the football and basketball point of view. There are some negatives though. One is it's perception as not a very good school academically. Secondly, they wouldn't be remotely competitive in men's sports like baseball and soccer. And they don't even field teams in tennis, golf and lacrosse, which are three of the ACC's better sports. The only school that really seems like a fit for the ACC is Vanderbilt, but the only way to get them would probably be for somebody like Clemson or Florida St to bolt to the SEC. Vandy is sometimes ok in football and are getting better at basketball. They are good at the non-revenue sports, and academically would be a good fit with UVa, Duke and Ga Tech. But then again, they are the SEC's crown jewel in the classroom, so they might want to hang on to them.

Anonymous said...

I'm still having to get used to Florida State being an ACC team.

Boston College? What??...WHAT???

Anonymous said...

1. Notre Dame will stay independent. As long as it has its own, lucrative television network contract and doesn’t have to share that money with anyone else

The Big 10's new TV deal will pay each team about 30% MORE than Notre Dame is getting right now.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone considered that Notre Dame's TV deal w/ NBC could be coming to an end if NBC is bought by Comcast? Last I heard, they are only waiting for FCC approval. If that happens, Comcast will expand its sports umbrella and may leave ND behind. I hope they are thinking about this is S Bend!!

Anonymous said...

Sports speaking WVU is top 20 in football, basketball, gymnastics, and soccer. As far as academics, I hire professionals from schools from various regions and although their parchment says UNC, they couldn't tell a baboon to eat a banana. Do not begin to assume inferior academics because a graduate isn't part of a "network". I prefer WVU in the SEC anyway.

marcus said...

interesting about cinn grad rates... last year at the end of the football season i read that cinn had one of the highest student/ath grad rates of the top 25 bcs schools... it was over 70%... ohio state was around 50%... I was surprised by this since forever i heard that cinn never graduates its players.... but maybe my earlier thoughts were a bit dated like the ones in your article

Geoff said...

or maybe marcus your facts are a bit dated?

does anyone acutally understand what this guy is trying to say??

"Sports speaking WVU is top 20 in football, basketball, gymnastics, and soccer. As far as academics, I hire professionals from schools from various regions and although their parchment says UNC, they couldn't tell a baboon to eat a banana. Do not begin to assume inferior academics because a graduate isn't part of a "network". I prefer WVU in the SEC anyway."

Anonymous said...

The University of Cincinnati has 17% of its Undergrads in a Cooperative learning program. A program that was born there in 1906. These students do not graduate in four years they graduate in five years. So, these four year graduation statistics are bogus. If just 12% of the Coop students graduate that pushes graduation rate to 64%.

Anonymous said...

It is not "Mizzo". It is MIZZOU!

pb said...

If you throw in geographics Louisville would go in this order...Big 10, SEC...then ACC. Louisville has alot to offer when you think about it. The top college Bball revenue in the world...ahead of Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina and everyone else. Next season we will have the #2 home attendance for Bball only behind Kentucky. During the NCAA Bball touney the city of Louisville year in and out is #1 in veiwership....more TV sets are watching Bball in Louisville than NYC, LA, Dallas, Charrlotte, Raliegh or any other city....Even when Louisville or Kentucky are not in the Tourney.
The football side has been down but we do have a solid football fanbase. And with the hiring of Charlie Strong I think we will be very good in a few years. The football stadium has been expainded from 42,000 seats to 56,000 seats and can go well over the 80,000 mark. And belive it or not Louisville football has some of the top rated ESPN football games of all time. Yes partly because we were playing a big game or a big named team but we brought in the other half of the veiwership.
The other sports are top notch at UofL....If You are a fan of college baseball then you know who Louisville is. A solid baseball team that gets better every year with a beautiful 4,000 baseball stadium that can be expainded. The womens Bball team is coming off a national title run a year ago and has had several crowds of more than 15,000 at Bball games. If you wanna get in depth we just had a young fella lose in the tennis national title game...Softball, Soccer, Swimming, Lacrosse are top notch and moving in the right direction. The facilites are better and newer than just about every school in the country.
22,000 students attend UofL with half living on campus. I know I will get the academic backlash. The only way I could argue that is to say the #1 focus is academics at UofL and they are improving that in major ways. This year we had 12 Allbright scholars with maybe 7 more added on to the list down the road. That is very, very comprable with the best Ivy, Big East, Big 10 and ACC schools. Not to mention the mens Bball team had an average GPA of 3.01. Do people think we are sitting back and doing nothing? Did we lose 2 million dollars like Duke? No we gained almost 60 million in sports revenue. And now we will bask as we start to get academic revenue.
The Big East has been good to Louisville but we want better.We are an all around giant waiting to happen...who is the taker? Who will regret in 10 years?

pb said...


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