Friday, August 12, 2011

Academics may help ACC avoid poaching

Sports talk radio hosts have lots of time to fill right now.

The NFL and college football seasons haven’t started yet. The NBA is in a labor stoppage and NASCAR just isn’t as interesting as it used to be.

So when talk of the SEC raiding the ACC starts crackling through the airwaves, there is reason to be cautious.

But talk of Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 seems legitimate. Texas A&M has a legitimate reason to bolt because the Big 12 has sold its soul to keep the Aggies’ rival, Texas, in the conference.

If the SEC takes Texas A&M, the conference would be looking for a 14th member, and some attractive options exist in the ACC:

- Florida State has a national following and a top-25 program even after Bobby Bowden’s ouster.

- Virginia Tech has a football program that’s without peer in the ACC.

- Clemson is Auburn with a lake. As a small-town, football-crazed state-supported school, Clemson has a lot in common with Auburn, Georgia, Florida and other SEC schools. So why not join a conference with schools that have similar demographics?

This point has been made before, but it’s worth making again.

In each case, it’s instructive to remember who makes the decision to switch athletic conferences. University chancellors, presidents and boards of trustees usually are charged with that task.

And while the SEC has won the past five national championships in football, the ACC has finished first among BCS conferences in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Ratings in each of those academic years.

Chancellors like to be aligned with other schools that possess highly regarded academic reputations. The big dollars of the SEC are enticing, but having an association with Duke, Wake Forest, Boston College, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia is not to be underestimated when evaluating chancellors’ motivations.

Another point is that in terms of football, the ACC schools would put themselves in danger of being considerably less competitive if they joined the SEC. Virginia Tech dominates the ACC, but loses almost every time it plays a nonconference opponent of any estimation, with recent defeats coming to Boise State, East Carolina and even James Madison. Florida State gets thumped every year by Florida; why join the SEC and get clobbered by a bunch of other football powers, too?

Bottom line, except for the money in the SEC – which is enticing – there aren’t many reasons to leave the ACC.

"As I've said previously, we'll continue to be mindful of the collegiate landscape and what's best for the ACC and its member institutions," ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement today. "With that said, I've received no indication from any of our 12 presidents that they have any intention of being affiliated with any conference other than the ACC."

As for the idea that the North Carolina schools might leave, you can forget it. UNC’s rivalry with Duke in basketball is far too important for the Tar Heels to leave for the SEC. (The SEC would not be interested in Duke as a package deal). N.C. State’s culture and tradition as the first home of the ACC tournament, and rivalries with UNC, Duke and Wake Forest would make it difficult to leave.

If somebody does leave the ACC, though, it would be fascinating to see who got an invitation to become the new 12th member. Keep in mind, the academic profile of the new school would remain critically important to the ACC. Here would be some likely candidates:

1. Rutgers: A New Jersey presence would deliver a new TV market and bridge the geographical gap in the ACC between Maryland and Boston College. Rutgers has a decent football program and a basketball program that should be better than it is with a location so close to New York City.

2. Pittsburgh: This is another geographical bridge school that would help the ACC in football and basketball. The TV market isn’t huge, but it’s bigger than the one Virginia Tech brought to the ACC a few years ago.

3. Connecticut: The basketball program would add a lot to the ACC, and the football program is coming off a BCS appearance. The Huskies would provide a local rival for Boston College as well.

4. East Carolina: Perhaps this is a sentimental choice as the only non-BCS conference member on this list. The Pirates wouldn’t add anything in basketball and don’t contribute a TV market. But East Carolina has demonstrated that it can compete with ACC teams in football, and if North Carolina politicians are courted in the right way (remember Virginia Tech in the last ACC expansion), the school could get a shot at ACC membership.
Again, though, this is getting way ahead of the game. It will take a bold move by a chancellor for a school to leave the ACC, especially with the college athletics hierarchy suddenly at least paying lip service to the importance of academics.

Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

You think FSU would be "thumped" by a bunch of other SEC football powers-challenged sure, but this years Seminoles squad would likely beat most if not all other SEC teams.

Oh, and the Seminoles "thumped" UF last year-remember?

Anonymous said...

So what do you think of the report just out on ESPN that Texas AM will announce Monday they are joining the SEC and that it is more likely than not that Florida St, Clemson and Missouri also join to make a 16 team conference. That's the problem with "NC focused" journalists, they can't see the big picture. Clemson and Fl St fit much better in the SEC than the doormat ACC. Talk all you want about "academics" but see how that plays when you keep losing TV money and stronger conferences pick off your top team. I see Va Tech, BC and Miami being very vulnerable to other offers. Of course then you are back to "tobacco road" which is probably what most people that follow the ACC want - how sad.

Anonymous said...

What kind of ACC propaganda piece of junk is this. You make the ACC sound like the Ivy League, please. A quarter of the universities are on NCAA probation for cheating. Sounds like a bastion of integrity to me. LOL. This sounds like it was released straight from the ACC headquarters. What has happened to journalism in the Charlotte Observer. The ACC was nice 15 years ago but it is a two team basketball conference with a bunch of has been universities tagging along and no football presence at all. Check the records in the BCS games. As far as academics are concerned, these universities aren't interested in academics just making a dollar. Please see UNC Chapel Hill.

what'sgoingon said...

Where is the SEC going to find an appropriate 14th member? How does the ESPN report Florida St. and Clemson are about to leave the ACC when both schools are saying they aren't even thinking about it and an SEC offical is saying they don't want to have anything to do with destroying another conference? How do Clemson and Florida St. fit better in the SEC. Both schools would struggle in SEC Football based on the recent past. I don't blame Texas A&M for wanting to leave the Big 12 (10?).

Anonymous said...

Don't want Rutgers or East Carolina!! I would want UConn, Pitt, Syracuse (New York TV Market) and the last would be a toss up between Louisville or West Virginia

glassblastertoo said...

Quote from Mr. Tysiac: Florida State gets thumped every year by Florida; why join the SEC and get clobbered by a bunch of other football powers, too?

Quote from "what'sgoingon": How do Clemson and Florida St. fit better in the SEC. Both schools would struggle in SEC Football based on the recent past.

I wish people would pay attention to the "recent past" before showing their ignorance. Recent past: 2010. Florida State had solid wins at the end of the season over Florida and South Carolina. So much for "losing every year" to FL.