The boys over at the Georgia Tech blog From The Rumble Seat are reporting on a rumor from Rivals.com's Kelly Quinlan. Quinlan apparently has some connects with ESPN and sounds like the rumor-mill is churning once again.
"There's a rumor being reported by Kelly Quinlan of JacketsOnline.com that comes from a couple contacts he has who work for a certain company with four-letter name (it doesn't start with F, either). This rumor states that the ACC is pushing pretty hard to get Notre Dame and Rutgers to join the conference, which would make the conference round out at 16 after the addition of Pitt and Syracuse."
Did you hear that? That's the sound of your UConn co-worker losing his or her lunch.
I mean, this isn't really new news. It's no secret that the ACC will at least be courting Notre Dame behind-the-scenes if the Irish finally decide to forego football independence. Most assume that Notre Dame will a) eventually have to join a conference and b) that conference will be the Big Ten, not the ACC, but I've got to think the ACC has some appeal to the Domers.
If the ACC is successful in luring Notre Dame into the fold, the Irish will likely bring either Rutgers or Connecticut with them. A bit surprising that Rutgers is mentioned in this particular rumor, given that the Huskies have all but thrown themselves at Swofford and the ACC. But I suppose part of the appeal of adding Notre Dame and Rutgers is locking down NYC, filling the one geographic hole in the conference's geographic footprint. What's that? You thought Syracuse was New York's College Team?
This plan might have some legs; that is, if another rumor doesn't come to fruition first:
You read that right, there's a rumor with a little more smoke than the other one mentioned that involves said four-letter TV network pushing on the Big Ten (or so) to add Notre Dame, Rutgers, Maryland, and Georgia Tech by the year 2016. Georgia Tech would be offered $25-30 million in TV revenue (from the Big 10 network), meaning travel issues would be nonexistent. The same group expects the SEC to go after NC State and Maryland, also trying to reach 16.
This second rumor is built on a faulty premise: that the ACC is somehow a vulnerable or unstable conference. The ACC is not as easy a poaching target as the Big 12 or the Big East, younger conferences that -- by their own design -- were inherently unstable. The Big 12 introduced an element of instability with their unequal revenue sharing plan (which has now been worked out); the Big East never quite solved the football-hoops split, and the conference is what it is today partly because of this tension.
At its core, the ACC is still a Carolina-centric league and so long as the core of Carolina schools, Virginia, Maryland and Clemson stick together, it's a pretty solid group.
The other reason I don't buy the second part of this rumor is based on the players involved. Why would ESPN, which has a long-term contract with the ACC, want to weaken the conference in favor of the Big Ten (who has its own television network and a partnership with Fox) and the SEC (CBS). If there is even a half truth in DeFilippo's flippant comments about ESPN's role in conference realignment, why would the WWL want to tear down what they just helped create?
Further, while ESPN has a stake in all six of the BCS AQ conferences -- ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 -- the network is the sole TV media rights holder for only the ACC.
None of the second part of this rumor really adds up.
And say what you will about the quality of the ACC's football product compared to the SEC or the Big Ten, but one thing the conference has handled extremely well is its own expansion plan. While the Big 12 very publicly muddles its way through West Virginia's Big East divorce and the SEC goes back and forth on how many games they should play in football, the ACC quietly and stealthily went about its business in conference expansion. What was a rumor on Friday was invites sent out to both Pitt and Syracuse on Sunday. Similarly, the conference has quietly slotted both into the divisions, announced the future scheduling format and upped the conference's exit fee.
So put as much stock into this particular rumor as you want, but I'm not sweating this too much. Just another day, another rumor of the ACC's untimely demise.