Brian: Florida State has got everyone talking conference expansion and realignment. FSU, you'll remember, was the conference's second expansion program after Georgia Tech made the ACC an eight team league in 1978. Miami and Virginia Tech joined in 2004, while BC made the conference an even dozen for the 2005 season. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are slated to become programs 13 and 14 in 2014 (or earlier).
Given there is a large, vocal contingent of Florida State fans that want to join the Big 12 like, yesterday, I thought it would be interesting to rewind the tape and replay the ACC's expansion plan. With a catch.
Since this is a Boston College blog, we'll lump BC in with the original seven ACC members -- Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia and Wake Forest. That's a total of eight programs to start. Given that starting set of eight, which programs would you have added to the conference? And how many teams you adding? 2? 4? 6? 8?
Jeff: The ideal number of teams in a conference is 12. This meets that important NCAA requirement to have a Championship Game for football and more than 12 leads to not playing each team frequently enough. So that leaves us looking for four teams. I would like the conference to make a little more sense geographically and with the given eight, the conference starts with Clemson as the furthest south team and BC as the furthest north team.
The current 4 ACC teams left out are Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Miami and Florida State. I am going to leave out the two Florida teams and Georgia Tech in order to help the geographic footprint of the league. Virginia Tech is a natural next best fit so I would send them the next invitation. Then to not leave Clemson all by itself below North Carolina, I invite the University of South Carolina next. Then I look to help out BC by inviting future member Syracuse. That gives the ACC 11 teams, 6 in the Carolinas and 5 north of there. Pitt, Rutgers and UConn might get a little bit of consideration but the next team to add is obvious - Penn State. Three of the four added schools are not very good in basketball, but all four are solid in football either historically or recently. In basketball there would be no divisions just as the ACC is set up now and in football there would be a north and south division which would look like this.
You might think I am crazy for not inviting Florida State but with the addition Penn State and South Carolina, the TV deal would likely be slightly more lucrative than the ACC's recently signed agreement. The league would be losing the 20th (Florida State), 41st (Miami) and 49th (Georgia Tech) most valuable college football programs according the Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, the ACC would be gaining the 13th (Penn State), 19th (South Carolina) and 66th ranked programs. The three new schools are valued at $743 million while the 3 schools the conference would be losing are only valued at $497 million. Sounds like a good trade to me and it would certainly be a league that would make more sense for BC since we would be trading two schools in Florida for one in New York and one in Pennsylvania.
Brian: I could be convinced to stop at 10, play a round-robin conference schedule in football and basketball and have three non-conference games. But I'll agree with you and stick with 12. I also agree you can leave off Florida State and Georgia Tech.
But how do you not go for Notre Dame straight away for #9? Why settle for the 13th most valuable college football program when you can have the 4th most valuable program (and a school with much stronger basketball and Olympic sports)? I'm also taking, in no particular order, Syracuse (natural rivalry with BC), Georgia (sorry, Yellow Jackets) and Miami to make an even dozen. I really want to add a team like Virginia Tech and boot Maryland, but I'll abide by the original rules of the game and add both the Hokies and Georgia Tech to get to 14.
That gives you the following divisions:
Boston College Eagles
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Virginia Tech Hokies
Duke Blue Devils
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
N.C. State Wolfpack
North Carolina Tar Heels
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Most of the important rivalries are moved within divisional play -- BC-ND, BC-Syracuse, BC-Miami, BC-VT?, UVa-VT, Clemson-Georgia, Georgia-GT, Tobacco Road. Since the only real rivalry lost here is Virginia-North Carolina, the two teams can use one of four non-conference games to play annually if they choose. Teams would play six divisional games, two rotating games from the other division and four non-conference games.
It's certainly not the strongest football conference top to bottom, but I think this league sets up a solid mix of football, hoops, Olympic sports and academics.