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ACC moves will lead to more chaos

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Pete Fiutak

Pete Fiutak writes previews, predictions and prognostications for CollegeFootballNews.com.

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Just when you think you have a handle on all the expansion and realignment rumors and gossip, and just when it seems like things are starting to take shape, out of left field comes one of the more surprising and sudden “earthquakes,” as TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte is calling the craziness.

In a whirlwind, and a well-timed and perfectly calculated one, Pitt and Syracuse asked the ACC if they could finally be a part of the fun – several years after wishing they were invited and being rejected for Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College – and the ACC was all too happy to let them come on the other side of the velvet rope.

Almost all the conference realignment discussions so far have centered around what it all means to the football side of the equation – the true moneymaker – but this is more of a basketball move. Football-wise, bringing in Syracuse and Pitt might help the ACC get into some bigger TV markets, and it helps expand the reach, but all of a sudden, the conference becomes devastating for basketball again.

And it’s not done yet.

The ACC is doing two key things here: (1) It’s building up its conference and its profile before the other big leagues make a move, and (2), more importantly, it’s coming up with a preemptive strike against possibly losing some of its members.

Eventually, the SEC is going to get through all the legal mumbo-jumbo and Texas A&M will be a part of the conference, with the debate about the 14th team currently focused on Florida State and/or Virginia Tech. Florida State makes sense as a reemerging football powerhouse and a natural geographic rival for several schools, while Virginia Tech is the sexier business choice because it expands the SEC into Virginia and adds the massive Hokies fan base in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas.

As good as the new ACC might turn out to be, Florida State and Virginia Tech are going to the SEC if they’re asked nicely. For that matter, Clemson and Georgia Tech already have their bags packed in case they ever get the call. Now, the ACC is protecting itself, and it might have an even better chance to keep everyone around by adding one of the biggest whales still out there.

Texas.

Texas is all over the map. The Pac-12 is interested; the Big 12 is trying to stay alive by keeping its anchor, and the Big Ten – very, very quietly – is in the room. The ACC has become a part of the discussions, too, and Texas is more than just investigating to see if the ACC might be the best fit of all.

Texas likes the idea of being the big boy on the block, but even though its basketball program is tremendous, it’ll be fine if it has to take a backseat to North Carolina and Duke in terms of hoops prestige. However, it knows it’ll be the football star of the league, even if Florida State becomes a national championship-level power again.

That’s still a long shot, though. Texas likes to be sucked up to, but the ACC probably isn’t going to end up working out. However, the ACC is still working on other options, and it’s making a run at Connecticut and Rutgers to become a 16-team conference to provide a buffer in case it loses Florida State, Virginia Tech, Clemson, or anyone else.

And now the Big Ten is going to start being a bigger player again.

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  • Which conference will suffer most from realignment?
    • Big East
    • Big 12

The Big Ten, which started the latest round of expansion fun after floating the idea that Texas could be a good addition, has to make a move – and fast.

The Big Ten wants TV markets and it wants the big cities to help expand the base and the ad dollars for the Big Ten Network. It already has a nice hold on Chicago, Detroit, most of Ohio, and parts of Pennsylvania. It’s openly talked about wanting Rutgers for the New York City market and thought about Maryland for the Baltimore/Washington D.C. market. The Big Ten knows it has Missouri for the asking at any time, and it thought it had any of the Big East schools the ACC is currently after.

The Big Ten isn’t going to stand pat at 12, and it’s not going to get Notre Dame, so if it loses out to the ACC on Rutgers, Connecticut, Syracuse and Pitt, the options for schools that fit what the conference wants both academically and athletically becomes limited.

That means that TCU is left holding a big bag of jack squat, after getting all excited about the big move out of the Mountain West to the Big East next year. That also means that West Virginia, which seems to be the odd program out, mostly because of the TV market side of the equation, is left wondering what the Big East will be like in three years. The idea of a Big East with Iowa State, Baylor, and/or Kansas State isn’t going to move the needle, and Kansas, because of its basketball program, has to go somewhere. But the real possibility exists that the Big East soon won’t be either Big or East, and will likely be a mish-mosh of Conference USA programs like UCF and East Carolina along with the land of misfit Big 12 schools.

However, when all of this shakes out, don’t dismiss the idea that the Big 12 survives.

Texas and Oklahoma like to be big players and they like the idea of everyone kissing up to them, but they also have way too many pieces in their collective puzzles, both academically and politically. If you want Oklahoma, you get Oklahoma State, and if you want Texas, you probably have to take Texas Tech. In the end, especially with Baylor alumni being heard from, the idea of bringing in SMU and Houston to become a modified Southwest/Big 8 conference might still end up being the most attractive option.

But for now, it’s the ACC’s day. Soon, the other big conferences will have their moments, too, and it’s going to happen fast.

Tagged: Florida State, Virginia, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas

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