Conference Realignment: Maybe It’s About Basketball Too
Remember how Y2K came and went and that the end of the world sounded like a cheap noise maker and a sleepy Dick Clark, leaving us all shrugging indifference at the apocalypse. I remember it, and I also remember being unsure as to whether I was supposed to greet the new century with relief or disappointment, because, after all, it’s cool to be a witness to cataclysmic change–it’s what makes science fiction a viable genre, helps preachers promote the fear of God, gives bloggers something to complain about, and maintains college sports’ place as a water cooler topic, that is, if people still even gather beside the water cooler. And right now, all the talk about college superconferences and realignment feels like a Y2K rush on canned goods and ammunition, with the ACC being the quickest to panic.
And, with the Pac-12′s denial of acceptance to Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., and Texas Tech, it’s not necessarily hyperbole to state that the ACC might have jumped the gun in snatching Syracuse and Pitt out of the Big East, making itself look like the crazed neighbor that dug a backyard bunker and is now homeschooling its children, using soup labels as textbooks, in preparation of the end. No, that wouldn’t be hyperbole at all–it would be true. And it’s that issue of truth, as greedy as the ACC might appear, that separates them, along with the SEC from all of these other conferences and schools–we know their intentions.
Big East fans may not like to hear it, and Big 12 fans certainly don’t won’t to admit it; but the ACC and SEC have acted with a fair amount of transparency, unlike the roguish Texas Longhorns, whose real intentions are as clear as any Congressman’s. The ACC’s 2004 and 2005 additions of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College spoke volumes then, and now, about the ACC’s long term objectives. While the move from nine teams to twelve was done to strengthen the conference’s football standings and to add a championship game, the moves were also an attack on one of the ACC’s biggest rivals, and the acquisition of Boston College, specifically, positioned the conference to be at geographic odds with the Big East for years to come. The conference saw the writing on the wall, and it acted then as it did now, for the survival of its athletic traditions.
And, while the ACC’s dealings may smell of cigar smoke and sound full of backroom whisperings, think about the two teams the ACC just acquired, and the admission of both the conference’s strengths and weaknesses are both present and entertwined: the ACC basically told the rest of the country that they know they’re good at basketball, mediocre at football, and maybe, just maybe, that they’re okay with that.
No, the ACC knows that it didn’t add two powerhouse football programs, and that it will most likely still feel like the prissy half sibling of the SEC, on the gridiron, but it did deliver a devastating uppercut to its major competition on the hardwood: the Big East being the only conference to pull in more revenue for Men’s Basketball than the ACC. And while what a conference makes in basketball revenue is obviously chump change when compared to football, the most profitable athletic program in the ACC is Wake Forest, who took a loss in terms of football revenue, which, as the Clippers do for the NBA, speaks to the fact that there’s more than one way to run a successful athletic program in college sports.
The stability of the ACC, compared to the Big East, due to its logical geographic ties, allowed it to add two more teams, and even though the move was most likely inspired by the fear that the football-oriented SEC or Big 10 might come a calling, it was a move that, no matter how you analyzed it, resulted in a stronger basketball league, something that could be heard in the enthusiasm with which Coach K and Roy Williams each greeted the acquisitions, and it’s the strength the conference holds in that sport that is its only hope of holding onto its more lucrative football properties as well.
Accept what you are and play to your strengths; it’s one of the tested truths of any competition, at least until the world ends.
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