If the running joke is that the Big East is now the Big Least, we may be heading in a direction where the ACC becomes just Another Collapsing Conference.
For the moment, conference realignment talk has subsided after the Big 12 proclaimed it’s happy with the ten teams on its roster. For those who haven’t been following, it’s been rumored the past few weeks that Florida State is considering a potential exodus from the ACC to the Big 12. Even though FSU officials have claimed the school is content to stay put, the mere thought of such an event has put the conference and its teams on high alert. Many college athletics experts have long been predicting that we’ll eventually see four 16-team super-conferences, and many view the potential death of the ACC as the tipping point.
The ACC has tried to keep ahead of the curve with conference expansion, twice raiding the Big East in an attempt to stay on the right side of the equation. Back in 2003, it added Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College, clearly putting a premium on college football over college basketball. However, those programs have underperformed, and the conference has posted just a 2-13 BCS bowl record. This past year, the ACC decided to add Pittsburgh and Syracuse, two schools known for their basketball prominence rather than their middling football programs. It was a move many criticized as backward-thinking, which pundits often cite as the reason for the Big East’s demise.
While old-timers have groaned that Syracuse has betrayed its Big East brethren and ignored its traditions/rivalries, most supporters realize that this is a move SU had to make to continue to be considered a prominent college athletics program. But just as Orange fans began to breathe a sigh of relief, it’s happening again. The conference that SU resides in is potentially going to be ransacked. So now what? Oh, to be a fly on the wall in Daryl Gross’ office right now.
Let’s say the ACC does go down. Let’s assume Florida State, Miami, Clemson, NC State, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech all bolt for either the Big 12, SEC or some combination of the two. Duke/Carolina is going to be a package deal, and the Big Ten seems to make the most sense for them. This would leave schools like UVA, Syracuse, BC, Maryland and Wake Forest fighting to find a new home.
Looking at a map, the obvious answer for SU is the Big Ten, but who says Jim Delany would even be interested? Syracuse certainly has a solid fan base in New York State, but would it really be chosen over state schools like Maryland, Rutgers or Virginia? Eleven of the twelve current Big Ten schools are public, and that’s a huge disadvantage for the Orange. Maybe the Big 12 becomes an option if it’s looking for a 15th or 16th school, but the idea of traveling to Texas/Oklahoma every other week can’t sit well in the minds of the Syracuse brass. Could SU possibly be forced to go independent, and start to work together with other schools in similar situations for scheduling purposes? What if the remaining ACC schools teamed up with the likes of Louisville, Rutgers, Cincinnati and UConn? Could the BCS really disregard a conference made up of those schools?
So far, Syracuse has been proactive in trying to keep relevant. Its marketing push to become “New York’s College Team” the past few years is a clear message that SU understands the value of TV markets and knew long ago where this all was headed. Scheduling football games at Metlife Stadium hasn’t been popular with the hometown faithful, but it’s another indication that SU realizes that claiming a piece of the New York City market is essential to survival.
If college football’s version of the apocalypse does occur, we’ll quickly find out how marketable Syracuse has actually made itself.