On Monday, the Board of Regents of Oklahoma and Texas are scheduled to meet to discuss realignment. With that unstable backdrop, the ACC apparently operated slyly.
Again, if it happens, luring Pittsburgh and Syracuse makes sense for the ACC. Syracuse, a one-time football powerhouse, has struggled for years, and Pittsburgh isn’t among the elite, but they’re Football Bowl Subdivision programs. When it comes to making money in college football, FBS are the most important initials.
The ACC is a better football conference than the Big East, which has only eight football-playing members. Texas Christian University, expected to join the conference next year, would increase the total.
Conferences are fighting for survival, and bolstering the football side of operations is a wise approach. When conferences lose members, they look elsewhere to fill holes, as the Big East did when it last experienced getting dumped.
The ACC successfully recruited Virginia Tech and Miami in 2004 and Boston College came aboard the following year, prompting the Big East to grab Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and South Florida (DePaul and Marquette joined as non-football members). There’s a chance that standing pat would leave the ACC vulnerable once the dust settles from the Texas-Oklahoma machinations.
Let’s say another conference suddenly must fill multiple spots. Perhaps Virginia Tech and Florida State are targeted. And maybe the Hokies and Seminoles listen, fearing they could get left out at the beginning of a new day. Very soon, four 16-team conferences essentially may control college football.
The addition of FBS schools, regardless of recent won-loss records, bolsters a conference. Membership changes affect television contracts. There’s just more money to be made all around.
Then there’s the basketball factor of a possible Pittsburgh-Syracuse move.
The Big East is the premier basketball conference. Reigning national champion Connecticut and Villanova would still lead a formidable group. The ACC’s new lineup may make it at least as talented. Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Syracuse — enough said.
As for the future of the Big East under this scenario, who knows? Presumably, the Big East has another contingency plan. The key is retaining the conference’s automatic Bowl Championship Series bid in football, and the millions in revenue for television rights to the top bowl games.
At some point, after the most profitable alliances are formed, the upheaval will end. The buzz from the boardrooms won’t compete with the fun on the field. Stability will return to college sports. At least until greed starts it all over again.