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Calls for an 'All Carolina Conference' Baseless

Brian: Tonight Virginia Tech goes on the road to face East Carolina in ESPN’s Thursday night game. The Charlotte Observer's Caulton Tudor awoke from college basketball hibernation to wax poetic about how this game would mean more if East Carolina was included in ACC expansion instead of Boston College or Miami. Has the North Carolina media lost all sensibility?

Given the point spread of tonight's game (Virginia Tech is favored by nearly two touchdowns on the road), I fail to see why this game is any more interesting than any other trivial ACC matchup - say, the Virginia at Miami game this weekend. But I digress.

Let us put aside our personal bias in this matter and rationally tell Tudor why a call for an "All Carolina Conference" - that is, wishing that the ACC expanded to include East Carolina over BC or Miami - is completely baseless.

Jeff: East Carolina in the ACC makes no sense right now. It made even less sense a few years ago when they were talking about expansion. Let's start with the geographic "fit" argument. As the league is currently constituted, there are four teams located in North Carolina, four north of North Carolina and four south of North Carolina. As it turns out, now North Carolina is the geographic center of the league. This wasn't the case before Virginia Tech and Boston College were added. The geographic center was somewhere south of North Carolina.

Brian: I agree. I have no idea what "territorial security" is. Are we fighting a war here? Regardless, the geographic fit argument makes no sense. Consider that the old school North Carolina stalwarts probably said the same thing about a geographic "misalignment" when Florida State joined the league in 1991. We now have the benefit of 28 years of hindsight to see that any argument about geographic "misalignment" makes little sense. If the ACC didn't bring on FSU in 1991, there would have been little separation between the ACC and the Sun Belt in football the last 20+ years. 

Let's move to the interest/rivalry argument. As per Tudor, for reasons of interest and rivalry, ECU-Virginia Tech "would have been a much more exciting option for the ACC." For one, I don't see much of a rivalry here. Since Virginia Tech exploded on the national scene in college football in the mid to late 1990s, this "rivalry" has been terribly one-sided. Since 1993, the Hokies have won 6 of 7 from the Pirates, dropping only last year's game in Charlotte. This seems to be more of a case of two programs that are in very different stages of development.

This doesn't even mention the fact that the other league rivalries would have been lost if ECU replaced either BC or Miami in the ACC. Miami-Florida State seems to have taken on more meaning since Miami joined the conference. Ask people close to the Boston College and Virginia Tech programs and I think they will all agree that BC-Virginia Tech is continuing to develop into one of the league's best rivalry games. Would you really rather have ECU-Virginia Tech replace Florida State-Miami or even BC-Virginia Tech as a marquee rivalry game for the conference?

Second, interest? You mean, like national interest? With all due respect to East Carolina and their athletic programs, I don't know anyone outside of the Holtz family who really cares about this game on the national stage. Contrast that with Miami and Boston College, who despite what Tudor would have you believe, are much larger draws in terms of national television ratings.

Jeff: This article doesn't even talk about the real reason for expansion. When the ACC added Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami (Fla.), they didn't add those teams just to add "enough helmets to qualify for a conference championship game." They added Miami and their five national championships to boost the calibre and reputation of the league as a football conference. They added Virginia Tech and Boston College who were both ranked annually in the Top 25 in the years leading up to expansion. Both had long streaks of consecutive seasons making it to bowl games before joining the ACC.

Contrast that with the Pirates. East Carolina had nothing ... nothing to offer to bolster the ACC's reputation as a first-rate football conference on the national stage. This is precisely what the ACC was looking for in expansion. Before expansion, the ACC was perceived as "the league that Florida State played in." And, oh yeah, there's a bunch of other Carolina schools that play in the league too. Florida State dominated the league year in and year out. The league had no credibility in football outside of Tallahassee.

Brian: All these points don't even say anything about the disparity in academics between East Carolina and the rest of the ACC member schools. With due respect to ECU, one need only look at national university rankings to see that Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech (all ranked in the Top 100 national universities according to US News & World Report) have much more in common with the Dukes, North Carolinas and Wake Forests of the league in terms of academics than East Carolina (a Tier 4 school). This also doesn't mention the fact that Wilmington, NC is a tiny television market and the Pirates would likely be the doormat of the ACC basketball scene.

If East Carolina was truly a strategic expansion option and one that would bolster a conference's football reputation, why didn't the Big East come calling? Wouldn't you wonder why when the Big East raided Conference USA for three replacement football programs, that East Carolina wasn't tabbed and the conference instead chose Cincinnati, South Florida and Louisville? East Carolina wasn't even good enough for the Big East in 2005. Yet East Carolina makes sense now for the ACC in 2009? The league already has plenty of North Carolina-based football doormats. We don't need another.

Jeff: The ACC has successfully given itself a new reputation on the national stage by adding Virginia Tech, Miami (Fla.) and Boston College. Again, East Carolina would have done nothing to help accomplish what the league was looking for in 2004.