The internet rumor of the day is that Georgia Tech, a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference since 1978 (but really, what does that matter?), will leave the ACC for the Big Ten. It started a few days ago with a West Virginia website -- cradle of conference realignment rumors -- spread through some radio host, finally making its way to the Clemson 247 affiliate site's Twitter account.
Of course, rumors that Georgia Tech, an AAU member, could leave the ACC for the Big Ten aren't all that new. The same sort of rumors have been kicked around for more than a year. Today, 247Sports' Tim Matty reported that the Big Ten had approved Georgia Tech as its 15th member. That is, before promptly deleting his Twitter account. So put as much credibility into a Twitter account that no longer exists as you will.
For the record, I don't buy any of this. But I'm intrigued. Plus if you had told me a few weeks ago that Rutgers (the Knights of the 1/3 conference football title in 22 seasons and hoops doomat variety) and Maryland (more than a decade removed from relevance in football or basketball) would beat Georgia Tech, Virginia, Duke and North Carolina, among others, for a spot in the Big Ten, I would have laughed in your face.
Still, message board machinations have the Big Ten adding two more members as a matter of when, not if. Everyone seems to have settled on 16-team superconferences because, why not? It's a nice, neat round number, broken down into two, 8-team divisions (or the incredibly stupid, NFL-like 4-team, 4-division pods). What's not to love?
Georgia Tech seems to fit the Big Ten profile. Decent academics. Major, untapped B1G TV market in a growing area of the country. AAU. Easily a better addition than both Maryland and Rutgers.
But adding the Jackets leaves the conference at an unwieldy 15 all-sports members. For those who claim this worked for the conference pre-Nebraska and currently works for the MAC (with 13 football members), I'd only add that the Big Ten didn't have divisions when they had 11 programs (and were keeping the seat warm for Notre Dame). As for the MAC, do you think that a 13 program conference with unbalanced divisions is done by choice?
So if the Jackets bolt, who's #16?
I believe that Virginia or North Carolina, the most logical Big Ten adds, are 1) not seriously entertaining a move to the Big Ten and 2) won't switch conferences without the other. If the dynamic duo of UVa and UNC together, you can bet that Virginia Tech and Duke, respectively, aren't going anywhere either. Wake Forest, short of better options, will stick with the Carolina schools. The only destination for N.C. State seems to be the SEC (along with Virginia Tech), though it will take a significant effort to jar the Hokies lose from the ACC without Virginia given the amount of political hand-wringing and state legislaturing required to finally hook up VPI and Virginia. Same can be said, though to a much lesser extent, about N.C. State.
Boston College and Miami seem more tied to the above mentioned core group of schools than they would be to the Big Ten (BC) or Big 12 / Big Ten (Miami). Both are not AAU members.
Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville just seem happy to be here, giving the conference a core group of 11 schools that will likely stick together to wether any conference realignment maelstrom.
Notre Dame is the wild card. While I don't think that the Irish will join any conference given this year's on-field success and bump in TV ratings, it seems highly improbable that the addition of Georgia Tech would cause Swarbrick to have cold feet and come running back into Delany's arms. In fact, I think the chances are better that Notre Dame decides they've had it with Delany taking his revenge out on his HS sweetheart's new conference that the Irish simply step in to replace Georgia Tech. At the end of the day, let's not forget that the decision makers that run college athletics are proud, proud individuals. Even if the Big Ten tries to poach multiple ACC teams in an attempt to make Notre Dame reconsider, I have a hard time envisioning any scenario where Notre Dame doesn't continue to have at least one foot in the door with the ACC.
I've heard rumors that Kansas might be the Big Ten #16. However unless the Big 12's grant of rights gets struck down in the courts, hard to see any Big 12 school getting jarred loose. The Big 12, which flirted with its very own demise not once but twice in two offseasons, has now stabilized to a large extent because of the grant of rights exit provision.
Unless Delany throws up a Hail Mary and lands Vanderbilt, he's not poaching any member of the SEC. And he's certainly not going to tip the apple cart with his Rose Bowl buddies over in the PAC-12.
I just don't see the way forward for Delany with a Georgia Tech add unless the Jackets are paired with a Big East leftover like Cincinnati or Connecticut. UConn seems like a stretch -- though not impossible -- and I can't imagine Ohio State would give Cincinnati its blessing.
With a logical #16, I don't see the logic behind adding #15. Not to mention Georgia Tech had no problems approving the league's increased exit fee of $50 million and just put their names to the conference's lawsuit against Maryland to hold them to paying the full exit fee. Georgia Tech is also currently operating without an A.D. He's at Clemson now. A whole bunch of little things that add up to this being nothing more than internet rumors. Of course, never say never and it's always fun to speculate.
I'll say this though: if Georgia Tech does leave the ACC for the Big Ten over the next 7-10 days, Jim Delany is easily the worst poker player on the planet.