In his first public comments since the ACC announced it would be adding Syracuse and Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech Athletic Director Jim Weaver said Monday afternoon he would be open to the idea of the ACC expanding further into a 16-team conference, but that it depends on what schools were under consideration.
“I was okay with 12; I’m okay with 14; and I’d be okay with 16 if it’s the right mix of institutions and it’s for the right reasons,” Weaver said. “I think we need to study that and research it and make what we think is the right decision.”
Weaver said he was pleased with how the ACC went about its latest foray into expansion because, “I am one who believed we should be proactive and I think we were and I think we landed two institutions that have very similar academic values as our current members in the Atlantic Coast Conference do.
“I think it goes without saying that we’ve added two institutions that have very strong basketball programs at this moment in time. And I think also those institutions both have a rich tradition in the sport of football, albeit it somewhat a few years ago.”
This part of the ACC’s expansion has irked some Hokies fans, who wonder what Virginia Tech really gained because it’s one of the few ACC schools whose football team is more nationally relevant than its basketball program.
But Weaver insists this expansion, and Virginia Tech’s insistence on remaining in the ACC, is about more than just revenue sports like football or basketball.
“That’s the misnomer. Football at every institution in the Atlantic Coast Conference is the most important thing in its season, then basketball becomes the most important thing in its season and the Olympic sports are always important in their season,” Weaver said.
“At Virginia Tech, we’re trying to get better and better every year in our Olympic sports. We’re able to do that because we get more money in the distribution from the Atlantic Coast Conference than we got when we were in the Big East. We’re better able to hire coaches and pay them more money now than we were because of the revenue distribution. So I don’t think it’s right or correct to say football or basketball is the only thing. That’s not true.”
More important to Weaver is his hope that the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh will bring about a 10-game conference schedule in football since “the cost of guarantee [games] is getting very high.”
The way Weaver sees the football schedule, traditional non-conference rivalry games like Florida State-Florida, Clemson-South Carolina and Georgia Tech-Georgia would remain in place and the rest of the conference’s schools would also have one BCS conference opponent on their non-conference schedule, “to keep things on an even keel and be fair to all the member institutions.”
Weaver said the other non-conference game each year would be a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent or a team from the Mid-American or Sun Belt Conferences.
In terms of conference scheduling in a 14-team league, Weaver thinks the ACC could keep its current two-division set-up and simply add either Syracuse or Pittsburgh to each division. All ACC teams would then play six division games and continue to face one permanent crossover opponent (currently Virginia Tech faces Boston College every year). The remaining three conference games would come from playing teams in the other division on a rotational basis, which is essentially what the ACC does now.
However, there is no set date on when Syracuse and Pittsburgh will start competing in the ACC. The Big East reportedly has a 27-month notification period for departing the league, but there could be negotiations to push that date up.
So as of now, Weaver could offer no update on the status of Virginia Tech football’s previously scheduled non-conference series with Pittsburgh in 2012 and 2013.