ACC Realignment Hypothetical: Adding Pittsburgh And West Virginia?

In a recent Southern Pigskin article, Derrick Stacy writes of the possibility of the ACC adding Pittsburgh and West Virginia to the conference, creating the nation's first super conference. Under this scenario, West Virginia and Pittsburgh would join Boston College, Virginia, Maryland and Duke in an ACC North Division, while North Carolina, N.C. State, Clemson, Miami, Florida State, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech would make up the ACC South.

The argument goes that West Virginia and Pittsburgh deliver the Pittsburgh TV market and makes sense geographically, which are the "two dominant aspects of conference expansion."

The Smoking Musket is loving this proposal, which would benefit WVU both financially and athletically:

"As far as I can see it, this move doesn't have a downside. The new ACC, while not quite as strong as the SEC in pigskin, would still be the second or third strongest conference in football (Big Ten has an argument for #2) and the strongest in basketball. It would bring a great deal more money into Morgantown and allow for West Virginia athletics to flourish across all platforms."

Sure, this is a sweetheart deal for West Virginia and Pittsburgh, but a move like this isn't nearly as feasible as the Southern Pigskin article would suggest.

First, the Pittsburgh TV market isn't as attractive as advertised. Pittsburgh is just the 22nd largest TV market in the country, and this would create a strange TV coverage map that includes existing ACC territories, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. West Virginia adds next to nothing in terms of TV. The conference would then have to be able to renegotiate its existing TV contract and argue that the addition of Pitt and West Virginia would add at least $24 million per year to the value of the ACC media rights deal, lest every ACC program would be poorer with the additions. Even if the ACC were able to head back to the negotiating table with ESPN, few programs add that much value to these media rights deals to make it economically viable.

Second, and with due respect, West Virginia would be a huge academic drain on the conference. WVU would instantly become the least valuable institution in the ACC academically. Can you really see schools like Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Wake Forest approving adding West Virginia to the fold? These schools nearly turned away BC in the last round of expansion talks, and would have also turned away Virginia Tech if it weren't for some late-hour Virginia General Assembly politics. Everyone is quick to point to athletic department revenues when it comes to conference musical chairs, but there is an equally large amount of money in bettering your academic standing. In doing so, a school can land more lucrative research grants and improve admissions, which produces more valuable alums, which become donors of the school, and so on and so forth ...

Finally, let's remember we are talking about John Swofford here, who has made it clear on multiple occasions he has no interest in taking a proactive stance on conference expansion and realignment. The ACC's most recent TV media rights contract gives the conference stability with 12 members. Barring an SEC raid of the conference's four southernmost members, the ACC has zero incentive to expand beyond its current configuration.

Yet apparently this move makes sense financially and geographically, so the conversation must be imminent!

"Due to the financial positives and the geographical feasibility, this conversation will soon be broached. When that occurs, the ACC will engage themselves in a game of conference chess. Will they make the intelligent and aggressive move, and attempt to gain a distinct advantage over the competition?"

Intelligent? No. Aggressive? Maybe, but this move isn't happening anytime soon. It doesn't make sense financially and we've seen in recent conference musical chairs that geography isn't high on the list of expansion criteria. But it's June, so us bloggers have nothing better to do than dream up fanciful conference expansion ideas that have less than a 1 percent chance of ever happening.

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