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Expansion: A Crowning Achievement

Maryland Athletic Director Debbie Yow does not expect a sudden financial windfall from conference expansion but rather a gradual increase. She views the financial gains as merely a byproduct of expansion.

"The purpose of expansion was as related to having an NCAA presence of significance as it was to any projection for additional income," Yow said. "When you're are a small conference and have nine institutions, talking about the position of the conference, all these years we've been going up against conferences that were much larger, the SEC, the Big Ten, the Big 12. There's obviously strength in numbers."

(Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

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There also is strength in media markets. The East Coast is "where everyone lives, you know," Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden said. "I don't care what the SEC says, there's not that many people over in Starkville [Mississippi]."

The obvious plum in the expansion, the school without which none of this likely would have happened, was Miami. The Hurricanes, who have finished the past four seasons ranked among the top five schools in the country, bring not only a tradition of football strength but also another foothold in talent-rich Florida.

"When [Miami] moved from the Big East," Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said, "you were hoping you could make the move with them. They bring strength to the league."

That strength ensures that whatever happens next, the ACC will be a leader, not a follower.

"I think eventually Division I-A will be all super conferences that are going to play conference championship games," Friedgen said. "And that'll probably be the first round of a playoff. I don't know if I'll be coaching when it happens, but I think that is eventually going to happen."

Pros and Cons

One of the primary aims of expansion was to follow the blueprint of the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference and stage a conference championship game, which is permitted in 12-member leagues. The game, which will be held in Jacksonville in December 2005, is expected to generate more than $6 million in revenue.

But those financial benefits have other repercussions. As a nine-team league, the ACC could play a round robin schedule in which each school played every other every season. That's not practical in the current world of super conferences. The league will split into two six-team divisions, with the division winners meeting in the title game.

That's great for television and for fans. For coaches, it's a mixed blessing.

"I'm probably like most coaches, I'd rather not have" a championship game, Bowden said. "You're 11-0 and get to play somebody that's 8-3. If they beat you, they go and you don't . . . but it's good for the league and it's the way our country is going, so we're going to have to have one to keep up with the Big 12 and SEC."

Countered Friedgen: "It's another bowl game, maybe more important than a bowl game because it's going to determine the big bowl you go to. It will definitely help recruiting."

Another ACC vision is to have two teams qualify for the BCS, which stages four high-revenue bowl games each year, including one that determines the national champion. The league, one of six that receive automatic BCS berths, has never received an at-large bid.

The ACC earns millions more when one of its teams earns a BCS berth compared to when it plays in another bowl game, money that will be shared evenly among the 12 member schools beginning in 2007-08, Boston College's third year. (Expansion teams will earn a smaller slice of the allotted revenue during their first two years in the ACC.) Miami and Florida State, two perennial top 10 programs, would appear as likely candidates each year to earn BCS berths, but a championship game could diminish the chances of both earning bids.

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