Sunday, September 18, 2011

ACC Grabs From The Big East, Again

Pitt and Syracuse become the latest Big East members to leave to join the ranks of the ACC. This appears to be a confirmation of everyone's predictions of a movement towards 16 team mega conferences, and for these two schools it makes sense to move early to ensure a spot in a conference that has much more stability than the Big East ever had. This move leaves a desperate feel to the Big East that will only be replicated by the remaining teams in the Big 12 when the likes of Oklahoma and Texas leave. There are a lot of unanswered questions regarding this move, most importantly is where the conference goes from here. It is interesting to note that both Syracuse and Pitt were involved in financial lawsuits against the ACC and the three schools that left the Big East for the ACC in 2003, so there must be some understanding between the two of them of the action that will be taken against them. There are lots of implications of this move for remaining Big East teams, the conference has a contract with Madison Square Garden for the Big East tournament in men's basketball and a guaranteed BCS berth through 2014 as well as contracts with individual bowl games to ensure Big East participation for almost any team with six wins. That makes the Big East very attractive to teams outside that halo of ensured bowl appearances and BCS ties (like Boise State, Houston, and UCF). There are a lot of pieces that are yet to move so it'll be interesting as this progresses to see how proactive the Big East can be to protect itself from becoming victim to the same thing that happened when Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College left by upgrading in football with the additions of Big 12 teams and the best non AQ schools.

There are likely four major conferences when this realignment is all done, the Pac-12 soon to be 16, the Big Ten (who probably won't change their name), the SEC, and the ACC. This leaves a lot of unanswered questions for conferences like the Mountain West and the MAC as well as the leftover teams from the Big 12 and Big East, although the number left from both will be relatively low considering the Big 10 still needs four teams to reach 16, the SEC still needs three, the ACC still needs 2, and the Pac-12 still needs four. There has been talk of interest from the SEC in West Virginia and for some reason only the Big Ten knows Rutgers is always mentioned in Big Ten expansion talks. I think the four major teams from the Big 12 (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech) will get split up between the Pac-12 and the SEC leaving some potential interesting schools left for the Big Ten to possibly include.

At this point my biggest concerns are what happens to those schools that are left on the outside looking in when everything shakes out, and sadly UConn is one of the teams that this could happen to, and whether or not forming a fifth conference with these teams has the potential to create another significant player. TCU is looking at their decision to join the Big East as disastrous now, although I don't believe they have a place in the four conferences already mentioned, because they have a commitment to a conference that may not exist very much longer. However there are a lot of quality programs potentially without a home and it would be in their best interest in join together in the hopes of gaining an automatic bid to the future playoff structure or however it works out.

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