Today we welcome in Chris Gates to talk ACC expansion. Chris is a sports-talk show host, Pitt/Pirates reporter for Pittsburgh's 93-7 FM The Fan. Pitt/Penguins reporter for Pittsburgh Sports Depot.
BC Interruption: After hearing about the move to the ACC, what has the reaction been for Pitt fans? Like the move? Really like the move?
Chris: For the most part, Pitt fans are very happy and excited to move to the ACC. It doesn't hurt that arch rival West Virginia is right down the road and sitting in no man's land waiting for someone to show interest. Pitt is set in a stable conference for the first time in ages that will present better football competition and strong basketball competition as well. I don't think any Pitt fans were worried that the program might get left behind in conference expansion -- the market size and history Pitt has are big assets. Landing in the ACC seems to be the perfect fit moving forward.
A vocal minority are upset with the move from a basketball standpoint. Pitt's transformation in basketball over the last decade has been arguably greater than any program in the country and it all happened in the best conference in basketball, the Big East. The competition there has been easily the best in the nation and coach Jamie Dixon has been vocal for years about his love of that conference. Some people are afraid Dixon could become disgruntled with a move, and also worry that recruiting (which has thrived in the New York area) will suffer because of less exposure at Madison Square Garden.
BCI: Let's pretend that the ACC remains at 14 teams, how would you like to see the conference divisions aligned?
Chris: I think it's important to structure this thing regionally to give schools like Boston College easier travel and create geographic rivalries. I'd also really like to see Pitt, Syracuse, BC and Virginia Tech grouped together to create a new version of the old Big East. Maybe throw UConn and Rutgers in there, too, if the league expands to 16.
Ideally, I'd have an ACC North and an ACC South. The North: Pitt, Syracuse, Boston College, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Duke & North Carolina. The South: Virginia, Wake Forest, N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida State & Miami.
But maybe that's a little ambitious of me. I can see worth in disregarding the geographic element when forming divisions as well so each school can have regular games up and down the east coast to help with recruiting. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out.
BCI: Pittsburgh has had great success in basketball, what current ACC teams are you looking forward to playing? What about football?
Chris: There's no doubt, Pitt fans are pumped to get Duke and North Carolina into the Pete and let the Oakland Zoo (Pitt's student section, for those that don't know the name) go crazy. I get chills just as I type that, because it will be an amazing sight.
As for football, renewing old rivalries with BC, Va Tech and Miami is outstanding. Looking back on the final years of the old Big East, that was some great football. Nobody was laughing at the conference back then. Pitt always struggled against Miami, had good back and forth with Boston College and for some reason always played very well against Virginia Tech. Playing those schools on a regular basis will be an outstanding thing for the fans and add much more quality to Pitt's conference slate.
BCI: How do you think the ACC's acquisition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse will change the shape of college football in the Northeast?
Chris: I really wish I could tell you. Some have rumored UConn and Rutgers to the ACC while others have suggested Penn State and Notre Dame. I thought we were at the tipping point of superconference madness...I really did. Then the Pac-12 silenced all of that.
If the ACC takes on a couple Big East castoffs I expect the rest of that conference to be absorbed into the Big Ten and SEC or drop off the map completely. If Penn State and Notre Dame -- or even just one of those two -- jump to the ACC in the future I think we'll be in for absolute chaos.
Can't wait to see how it unfolds.
BCI: Flash forward five years, what will the Big East look like? How about the ACC?
Chris: The Big East is dead, whether it admits it or not. Have you looked at its current expansion targets? The service academies (Army, Navy, Air Force) plus some conference USA schools and Temple? Come on. John Marinatto is just delaying the inevitable.
The ACC will expand to 16 teams. It's really the only league right now that isn't openly shutting out that possibility. There are so many reasons Notre Dame needs to join a conference, and so many of those reasons are represented by the ACC. I think ND is forced to jump in the next five years and jumps into our (yes, I've adoped 'we' to the ACC already) backyard along with Rutgers or West Virginia. Either these commissioners will falsely convince themselves people in New York actually care about Rutgers or they'll go after a quality athletic department from top to bottom like WVU.
Thanks Chris, and for more PItt news make sure to check out Chris Gates at The Pittsburgh Sports Depot.