As part of Wednesday's ACC press conference, N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien was asked to comment on Maryland leaving the conference. You'll recall TOB has some experience in this space, going through a similar transition with the Eagles going from the Big East to the ACC. As part of his comments, O'Brien is pushing for an interesting divisional realignment starting in 2014.
The thing that I would hope going forward, and especially because they're traditionalists and everything else, that we can't do it next year, but certainly going in 2014 that we could change our brackets and go back to the original ACC against everybody else, the Wake Forest, Duke, Carolina, State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Virginia, the original guys, and we can go back to playing each other and it can be the old guys against the new guys. I don't care what you call the conference. But I think that would certainly be something we've got to consider, and if we're going to be traditionalists and think that that's important, then maybe that can happen in 2014.
Once you get past the notion that O'Brien considers himself among the "original ACC," and also considers Georgia Tech an original member (the Jackets joined in '78), it's an interesting proposal. Here's how O'Brien's divisions would look:
ACC Original ACC Division
ACC Everybody Else Division (a.k.a. Buyers Remorse Division)
Couple thoughts here.
That's certainly one way to send Florida State packing, sticking the 'Noles in a division with BC, Connecticut / Louisville, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Virginia Tech. I can't imagine the FSU brass would sign up for that sort of northeastern travel schedule making this idea pretty much a nonstarter.
From a football perspective, this alignment shifts the balance of power heavily towards the ACC Everybody Else Division with Florida State, Virginia Tech and Miami (?) anchoring the conference at the top. The Original ACC has Clemson, Georgia Tech and a whole lot of dead weight. In its prime, the Big East was arguably a better football conference than the ACC and now you've gone ahead and taken the best of the original Big East (less West Virginia) and added the best ACC program for more than a decade from 1992-2003.
Though I suppose splitting up Florida State and Clemson could lead to some intriguing ACC Championship Game matchups. Unfortunately, however, the conference would have to give up the dream of a Florida State-Miami ACC Championship Game, which has been wildly successful over the first eight seasons as a 12 team conference.
The genius of this alignment is that TOB has moved every current cross-over rivalry within the divisions. The downside, of course, is you are left with Virginia and Virginia Tech in opposite divisions and a whole lot of really forced cross-over rivals (if you keep that scheduling arrangement at all, though I'd imagine the league would given no UVA-VT). Your guess is as good as mine as far as how cross-division rivals would look with this alignment though I'd imagine BC would end up stuck with Duke or Wake Forest (not that that's necessarily a bad thing). Other than FSU-Clemson or FSU-Georgia Tech, the rest seem forced.
Finally, back in 2004, the promise of an annual Florida State-Miami ACC Championship Game wasn't the only reason the league brass decided to split Florida State and Miami. It's also important for every other league member NOT located in Florida to get down there every other year for recruiting purposes. This alignment isolates the OG ACC to a rather small geographic area that spans from Charlottesville to Atlanta and doesn't get to either the Northeast or Florida. Though if O'Brien is the one advocating this divisional alignment, maybe the rest of the remaining original members of the conference (and Georgia Tech) are crazy enough to want to do something like this.
Not the worst idea TOB has ever had, but I highly doubt something like this would ever get off the ground. I also think that this isn't the best divisional alignment for the long-term. You'd probably see the ACC Everybody Else Division dominate the conference championship game and the ACC Original ACC Division revert to 1990s ACC football. That's not necessarily in the best interest of the conference.