If the ACC does stand pat at 14 programs, we're going to need to find a divisional home for both Syracuse and Pittsburgh. So how will the conference be divided after Otto and ROC join the fold? Here are four such divisional realignment proposals for the conference to mull over.
NOTE: The below assumes that the conference will keep its current 5+2+1 schedule format but move to a nine-game conference football schedule. So 5+2+1 becomes 6+2+1.
The Minimalist Divisional Split
|ACC Atlantic||ACC Coastal|
|Boston College||Virginia Tech|
|N.C. State||North Carolina|
Cross-Divisional Rivals: All existing cross-divisional rivalries remain in place, Syracuse and Pittsburgh become divisional rivals.
If the conference is happy with the way they originally drew the divisional lines back in 2004, then the simplest solution is to put Syracuse in the Atlantic (joining traditional rival BC) and Pittsburgh in the Coastal. The downside for BC is that the Eagles don't get more traditional rivals Pittsburgh and Miami on the schedule more often. Maryland also seems like a natural border rival with Pittsburgh, and this is not achieved with the above alignment.
Under this alignment, I suppose you could just as easily swap out Syracuse for Pittsburgh. This alignment will likely be adopted if the ACC is unwilling to unwind the current Atlantic / Coastal divisional split, citing needing more time to establish inter-division rivalries.
The Mason-Dixon Divisional Split
|ACC North||ACC South|
|Virginia Tech||Florida State|
Cross-Divisional Rivals: BC-Miami, Wake Forest-Duke, Pittsburgh-Florida State, Maryland-Clemson, Virginia-North Carolina, Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech, N.C. State-Syracuse
A straight north / south split of the conference gets tricky. This forces the conference to break apart the four Carolina schools. The northernmost school of the four is actually Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, so by default the Deacs are placed in the ACC North. The problems with this alignment go beyond simply breaking up the Carolina schools. The cross-divisional rivals are equally messy. Given that a north / south split puts Virginia and North Carolina in separate divisions, the south's Oldest rivalry has to be preserved. Wake can continue its cross-divisional rivalry with Duke, but a N.C. State-Syracuse rivalry seems forced. As does Pittsburgh-Florida State and, to a lesser extent, Maryland-Clemson.
The Buyers' Remorse Divisional Split
|Big (ACC) East||OG (Original Gangsta) ACC|
|Virginia Tech||Georgia Tech|
Cross-Divisional Rivals: BC-Clemson, Syracuse-Duke, Pittsburgh-N.C. State, Maryland-Wake Forest, Virginia-North Carolina, Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech, Miami-Florida State
This is the Mason-Dixon Divisional split but with a twist. Despite Miami being the southernmost member of the conference, culturally the school fits more with its former northern Big East rivals like BC, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. Miami also has a very large alumni population in the Northeast and is in a city with a major East coast airport hub. This setup preserves the Florida State-Miami rivalry as well as Virginia-North Carolina, but falls apart with cross-divisional rivalries like Syracuse-Duke (though maybe this could work) and Pittsburgh-N.C. State.
The Competitive Balance Divisional Split
|ACC Followers||ACC Ordinary People|
|Georgia Tech||Virginia Tech|
Cross-Divisional Rivals: Florida State-Miami, Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech, Clemson-Boston College, Pittsburgh-Syracuse, North Carolina-Virginia, Maryland-N.C. State, Duke-Wake Forest
The competitive balance split divides the conference evenly based on all-time college football winning percentage (and takes a dig at the Big Ten's ridiculous division names). The 14 members of the conference are ranked as follows:
1. Florida State (.664)
2. Miami (Florida) (.633)
3. Virginia Tech (.607)
4. Georgia Tech (.595)
5. Clemson (.590)
6. Boston College (.587)
7. Syracuse (.582)
8. Pittsburgh (.578)
9. North Carolina (.566)
10. Maryland (.531)
11. Virginia (.528)
12. N.C. State (.506)
13. Duke (.489)
14. Wake Forest (.410)
Placing 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12 and 13 in one division and 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 11 and 14 in the other, you actually get a fairly balanced divisional split. There are two really great features of this divisional alignment -- 1) every team in the conference plays a team from Florida every season, which means more trips down south for recruiting purposes and 2) every cross-divisonal rivalry works after you swap Maryland and Virginia. You then have North Carolina-Virginia and Maryland-N.C. State to go along with Florida State-Miami, Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech, BC-Clemson, Pittsburgh-Syracuse and Duke-Wake Forest.
The only downside I can see with this alignment is the NCAA is likely to hammer Miami, which makes the ACC Ordinary People Division a whole lot weaker than a division that includes Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson at the top.