ACC Division Realignment: Georgia Tech To The Atlantic? Louisville To The Coastal?

via wikipedia.com

Word on the street is that Louisville will join the Coastal Division, sending Georgia Tech to the Atlantic Division. The Yellow Jackets would join Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, N.C. State, Syracuse and Wake Forest in the Atlantic Division.

Back in November, when the ACC added Louisville as the #14 member, it was largely assumed that the Cardinals would replace the Maryland Terrapins in the ACC's Atlantic Division. Commissioner John Swofford even intimated as much during the ACC's press conference announcing Louisville as its latest member.

"We have not had any conversations of that nature. I think that our anticipation is that Louisville will jump right into the decisions that have already been made in terms of a 14‑team league and take Maryland's place in terms of the Atlantic Division in football and simply to take Maryland's place in terms of our basketball scheduling and other Olympic sports scheduling, as well."

While nothing is official one way or the other, the word on the street is that Louisville will NOT be heading to the Atlantic Division; instead the Cards will join the Coastal Division, while the league sends Georgia Tech over to the Atlantic.

If Georgia Tech moves over and Louisville joins the Coastal Division, the conference's divisions will look like this:

Atlantic Division
Boston College Eagles
Clemson Tigers
Florida St. Seminoles
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
N.C. State Wolfpack
Syracuse Orange
Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Coastal Division
Duke Blue Devils
Louisville Cardinals
Miami Hurricanes
North Carolina Tar Heels
Pittsburgh Panthers
Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia Tech Hokies

This is a scenario I wrote about a few months back. However, instead of swapping Georgia Tech for Louisville (then not in the conference), I had proposed a Georgia Tech for Boston College swap.

If I'm Brad Bates, I'm on the phone to Greensboro today trying to broker a BC-Georgia Tech swap. I'd much rather see the Eagles in the Coastal Division with a mix of private schools (Duke, Miami), like academic schools (North Carolina, Virginia) and our old Big East frenemies (Miami, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech) than in a southern dominated division with only Syracuse to kick around. Unfortunately, the window of opportunity for such a move may have closed given the Eagles recent struggles on the gridiron.

As for the proposed Georgia Tech-Louisville swap, the biggest winner is clearly Florida State. Georgia Tech is the Seminoles' closest geographic neighbor in the conference and third biggest conference rival behind Miami and Clemson. In fact, the trip from Tallahassee to Atlanta is about 200 miles shorter than Tallahassee to Miami. This should also improve FSU's strength of schedule for the upcoming college football playoff (the Seminoles will be the only ACC program guaranteed to play Clemson, Miami and Georgia Tech every season). Anything that makes Florida State happy is probably a good thing for the long-term stability of the conference.

For Boston College, however, I'm not digging the long-term ramifications of this move.

This alignment creates what amounts to an inner-outer alignment (the Big Ten equivalent of what mgoblog refers to as the Eye of Sauron alignment). The Atlantic Division would be comprised of the southern and Northeast schools (the outer schools), while the Coastal becomes the inner plus Miami. Despite the fact that Louisville is coming off a BCS bowl victory, Georgia Tech is the better football program historically and this proposal sends the only non-Virginia Tech Coastal Division champ to the Atlantic. While Louisville has yet to play a down of football in the ACC, this seems to strengthen the Atlantic at the expense of the Coastal.

About the only positive from this realignment from BC's perspective would be revisiting the permanent, cross-divisional scheduling partners. Four of the seven permanent scheduling partners would remain unchanged -- Florida State-Miami, N.C. State-North Carolina, Syracuse-Pittsburgh and Wake Forest-Duke -- leaving six schools to be paired together. Staples speculates that Clemson and Virginia Tech would be paired together, leaving BC and Georgia Tech from the Atlantic and Virginia and Louisville from the Coastal needing permanent partners.

My guess is the ACC would pair Georgia Tech with Virginia given the series history (all-time series tied 17-17-1), leaving BC and Louisville as cross-divisional rivals. Neither Louisville nor Virginia is going to set any Alumni Stadium attendance records, but at least with Virginia, BC would face a like academic school within close proximity of a large alumni base (northern Virginia / Washington D.C.) every other season. Louisville doesn't do a whole lot for me, even if BC-Louisville has slightly more history (all-time series tied 3-3) than BC-Virginia (5-0 BC). Still, the Cardinals are probably an improvement over a Hokies rivalry that has always seemed forced and has grown more and more one-sided in recent years.

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