Despite the comments today from Atlantic Coast Conference Commission John Swofford that the ACC would ‘be comfortable,’ with 14 teams; the expectation from everyone should be that the league will quickly follow-up the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh by also adding teams 15, and 16.
Despite earlier flirtations by Texas, I don’t see that as a legitimate alternative for either the ACC or the Longhorns. As much of a powerhouse as the University of Texas is, the supposed requirement of additionally bringing in Texas Tech, is not something the ACC is going to do. Outside of that, the Longhorn Network and basic geography are other issues that would be hard to get past. It appears tonight, that Texas has turned all attention towards joining the Pac 12 (which presumably would take Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State).
Beyond the dream of adding Texas, some have suggested the ACC should be adding Notre Dame. If the rise of these 16 team Super Conferences force The Irish to choose full-time conference affiliation, I would think their choice would be the Big Ten. Like Swofford, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has also said his league is very comfortable, and will be cautious and conservative going forward. That is fine, but the wheels are in-motion for 16 team leagues and it is hard not to see Delany reacting in-kind. If Notre Dame goes looking for a conference, nobody, and especially the Big Ten are going to tell them no.
Before discussing UConn and Rutgers below, let us start with the expectation that is prevailing everywhere that West Virginia will follow Texas A&M to the SEC. Personally, I continue to think WVU should be pursued by the ACC. Yes, we understand that the Mountaineers are not part of the Association of American Universities (AAU), and that the University was ranked #164 in the most recent US News & World Report rankings (http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities).
For comparison, the rankings of the current ACC schools (plus Syracuse and Pitt) are:
25 tied) Wake Forest
29) North Carolina
31) Boston College
36) Georgia Tech
71) Virginia Tech
101) Florida State
101 tied) North Carolina State
On the other-hand, the same reasons West Virgina are attractive to the SEC (strong football program, good basketball, geography) are all reasons why WVU should make sense for the ACC. Presumably, if the Mountaineers were to join the SEC with Texas A&M, the Aggies would be moved into the SEC West, with WVU joining the SEC East.
The current SEC East alignment includes Florida, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia. Would that be a more attractive division for West Virginia, as opposed to a possible ACC ‘North’ which could include Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt, Maryland, Virginia, and Virginia Tech? I would think not.
However, again assuming that WVU to the SEC happens; I think the ACC should be finalizing plans to add Connecticut, and Rutgers. According to the US News & World Report rankings, UConn is tied for 58th, and Rutgers is tied for 68th. So both Universities have an academic standing similar to the existing members. The addition of both schools would give the ACC a dominating presence up and down the East Coast, and present the opportunity for true ‘North’, and ‘South’ divisions.
The ACC with UConn, and Rutgers:
ACC North: BC, UConn, ‘Cuse, Pitt, Rutgers, Maryland, Virginia, VTech
ACC South: UNC, Duke, Wake, NCST, Clemson, GaTech, FSU, Miami
While the football talents of the two divisions would be better balanced with WVU in-place of Rutgers, the divisions still work. Obviously the addition of Connecticut (with Syracuse, and Pitt) would ensure the conference would be the best in the Country. Rutgers’ primary addition to the league would be as another gateway school to the New York City market.
In football, you would expect the scheduling would allow for a game against each of your 7 divisional opponents and two games vs. the other division on a rotating basis.
In basketball, I think it would be important for the conference schedule to increase. I also think using the divisions that would be in-place for football should happen. You would want to play home-and-home series against your division, and some games against the other division. While it would be unlikely for the league’s Coaches to agree to upping the conference schedule from 16 to 22 games, I think that would be ideal. (2 games vs. each of your 7 divisional opponents = 14 games, + 1 game each vs. the other division.)
Last year, Maryland played 31 games prior to the ACC Tournament. That included 15 games outside of league play (Seattle, Charleston, Maine, Pittsburgh, Illinois, Delaware State, Elon, Penn State, Temple, Greensboro, NJIT, North Florida, Colgate, Villanova, and Longwood). It seems to me that if MD had played 22 conference games, as opposed to 16, and eliminated 6 of those out of conference games above; they could craft a schedule that was similar overall (and allowed the opportunity to play everyone in a 16 team conference at-least once, with home and home games within their division).
A more likely scenario has the ACC increasing their league schedule to 18 games, and maybe continuing not to have divisions for basketball. In that scenario, every team could also play every team in the league at-least once.
Now that Pittsburgh, and Syracuse have been added; what would you like to see happen next for the league?