It's been less than 24 hours since I wrote this:
"But I also think the ACC is currently in a much stronger position than others would have you believe, and think that adding two of the Big East's stronger programs along with Texas and Big 12 survivor #2 could be the type of move that:
1) makes your conference stronger at your rival conference's expense and
2) could cause the end of the Big East as a BCS AQ conference.
If the ACC made another run at Syracuse (original ACC expansion candidate, etc. etc.) and one of Pittsburgh / Rutgers / Connecticut, that would likely be the end of the Big East as a viable BCS conference. Couple those moves with a move by West Virginia to the SEC -- my current pick for SEC #14 -- and the Big East would be left with only Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Missouri from the Big 12.
Weakening the conference you are most often compared to by poaching two of their stronger programs and pairing with Texas and Texas Tech seems like a much better play than adding four Big 12 schools and watching the Big East balloon to 12 football programs, 20 basketball programs and land a better TV contract."
And it already looks like the wheels are in motion for my ACC expansion plan.
According to a report in the New York Times, the ACC is currently in discussions with both Syracuse and Pitt about leaving the Big East to join the ACC. And we're not just talking about your latest conference realignment internet rumor, either. Neither the ACC nor representatives from each school are denying the talks, so it sounds like this Thamel report may actually have legs.
I've written multiple times that both Syracuse and Pittsburgh would be 1a and 1b on my list of possible ACC expansion targets from the Big East. Both schools would expand the conference's northern footprint and add markets that give the conference more geographic continuity up and down the East coast. Pittsburgh gives the conference a top 25 TV market and helps open up the Pennsylvania recruiting pipeline, while Syracuse gives the ACC a presence in New York and helps bridge the geographic gap between BC and Maryland. Syracuse and Pitt also prop up the basketball side of the equation, allowing the conference to maintain its basketball reputation.
Adding Syracuse and Pittsburgh and moving to a 14-team conference could also allow the conference to redraw the divisional lines along geographic north-south lines (that actually make sense), with Syracuse and Pittsburgh joining BC, Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech and one of the Carolina schools in an ACC North Division, while the other three Carolina schools, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Miami would comprise an ACC South. I'd say it's probably less important now that the ACC Championship Game be set up to be an annual FSU-Miami rematch, wouldn't you?
ACC North: Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Virginia, N.C. State
ACC South: Florida State, Miami (Florida), Clemson, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest
Or the conference could swap Miami for Wake Forest, making an ACC North Division comprised of five former Big East programs along with Maryland and Virginia and the South Division comprised of the five Carolina schools, Georgia Tech and Florida State.
ACC Old Big East: Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Miami (Florida)
ACC Old ACC: Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest
The other question that immediately comes to mind is would the ACC stop at 14 or would they attempt to become the first to 16? With all this talk about the ACC pods, could Texas and a Big 12 running mate like Texas Tech or Kansas make 16 to next in line to join the ACC? Also don't rule out the two biggest fish in the conference expansion pond -- Texas and Notre Dame -- joining the conference as non-football playing members, especially if the Big East implodes and the Irish are left with a conference like the Atlantic 10 as its best option to house its basketball and Olympic sports.
As always, stay tuned.