So IF the SEC presidents vote to extend an invitation to Texas A&M and IF either Florida State or Clemson leave the conference for the SEC, the ACC is going to be in the market for a 12th program. It's pretty fascinating to speculate on which program would be extended an invite to replace either Florida State or Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Plenty of programs have been floated as possible replacements (though how East Carolina makes this list and not Syracuse, I have no idea). The 11 ACC university presidents left standing will be looking for a school that has strong revenues, adds value to the conference's TV rights deal, fits the academic profile of the conference and opens up a new market.
It's the academic profile requirement that we cannot stress enough. Fans and sportswriters don't make these decisions based on college football winning percentages, BCS bowl appearances or top notch football facilities. A primary consideration of the decision-makers in this process -- university chancellors, presidents and the boards of trustees -- is how the school fits the conference academically.
Strong revenues and value-add, new TV markets and strong academics. That sounds a lot like ... the Twelve Pack's main criteria used in the SB Nation Conference Re-Draft Project. So what can the SBN conference re-draft tell us about likely candidates to replace either Florida State or Clemson if they left the ACC.
Here is a list of likely candidates, based on draft order and roughly fitting the geographic footprint of the conference. The below also assumes that the school is somewhat attainable. In other words, I doubt the ACC is going to raid the Big Ten or the SEC in this latest round of conference musical chairs.
1. Notre Dame (2nd round, 8th overall) -- Notre Dame in the ACC is an intriguing idea. The Irish clearly value their football independence and have made it repeatedly clear they want no part of the Big Ten. But if long-term football independence isn't a viable option -- I mean, NBC is moving some Notre Dame games to Versus -- Notre Dame seems to fit more with Boston College, Duke, Wake Forest and Miami than they do in an expanded Big Ten. The Irish's hoops and non-revenue sports would be a solid addition to the ACC's already strong Olympic sports lineup, and no other program would add the value to the conference that Notre Dame represents. Is this a pipe dream? Absolutely. But the ACC could give the Irish both long-term stability and a better home for the non-revs.
2. Louisville (3rd round, 16th overall) -- Louisville's third round selection was generally mocked by the other conference commissioners, but the 'Ville does offer a quality basketball program to pair with an already strong hoops conference. Still, the football program is just a few years removed from Conference USA play and the University hardly fits the ACC's academic profile.
3. West Virginia (5th round, 28th overall) -- The Mountaineers would give the conference a boost on the gridiron that could help soften the blow of losing Florida State (or to a lesser extent, Clemson). West Virginia hoops is very strong too. Though like Louisville, West Virginia doesn't fit the ACC's academic profile and wasn't considered a viable ACC expansion target during the last round of expansion. Without Pittsburgh, Morgantown doesn't represent much of a new TV market either.
4. Syracuse (5th round, 29th overall) -- We can start here with stating the fact that the Orange were in the ACC's original expansion plan, along with BC and Miami. Syracuse offers another top-notch basketball program and a football program on the upswing after more than half a decade of utter futility. As a private school, Syracuse fits well with BC, Duke, Wake Forest and Miami as well as Georgia Tech, Virginia and North Carolina. This also gives the conference a new TV market and bridges the geographic gap between BC and Maryland.
5. Connecticut (7th round, 39th overall) -- This would clearly be an unpopular choice among BCI readers, but UConn is the defending National Champ in men's hoops after all. Though a Florida State/Clemson for Connecticut swap on the gridiron is certainly a downgrade, at least the Huskies took advantage of a down Big East to win a share of the conference title and forget to show up against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. However it's unclear what the hoops program will be after Calhoun decides to hang them up (maybe Geno can coach both programs?). In football, while I will commend Connecticut for winning 5/6 of a Big East football title since BC left for greener pastures, the program is still very much a fledgling one. UConn is ranked just two spots below Clemson in the latest USN&WR rankings, but many spots higher than Florida State.
6. Pittsburgh (7th round, 41st overall) -- Pitt boasts strong hoops and football and plays in a top 25 TV market. The Panthers play in a large stadium (even if it's a pro one) which could help offset the loss of either the Doak or Memorial Stadium. Pitt's academic profile is pretty good, ranked 64th nationally this year and tied with the Twelve Pack's Minnesota and Rutgers. Pitt makes some sense but I openly wonder whether they would ditch long-time rival West Virginia for the ACC. Pitt also seems to be holding out for the Big Ten, though I think that ship has sailed.
Other programs drafted include Cincinnati (10th round, 57th overall), South Florida (10th round, 58th overall) and Florida Atlantic (11th round, 66th overall), though like Louisville and West Virginia, none of these programs fit the academic profile of the ACC. Of further note are the programs that are still on the board, including Rutgers, Tulane, Central Florida, Marshall, Memphis, East Carolina, Army, Navy and Villanova.
While we started this off by saying that fans and sportswriters don't make these decisions, you can start to see a relative list of value based on the order of selection in the SB Nation Conference Re-Draft.