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Banter: What’s the Realignment End Game for Boston College and the ACC?

The conference could be headed in a number of directions, but one seems most likely

Florida State v Boston College Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

Curtis: College conference realignment was going crazy last week and it all seemed to culminate on Wednesday night when the ACC rejected a proposal to add Stanford, Cal, and SMU to the conference. Are you happy, heartbroken, or don’t really care?

Arthur: So I’m all of the above. On the one hand, I’m happy because it felt like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Cal, Stanford and SMU are all way outside the geographic footprint of the ACC, and would have taken a toll on the athletes going to and from those schools. It may have been fine for football (and even that I’m not sure about) but the Olympic sports would have definitely suffered.

On the other hand, I’m sad. The ACC is sitting complacent at a time where the college football world is remaking itself. You have one school very much vocally stating that it’s trying to get out of the conference, and another one in Notre Dame saying it would like to see those schools join. It feels like allowing Stanford and Cal to join would at a bare minimum could have helped keep the conference competitive, all while keeping the tradition of strong academics alive. SMU was meh but they’d literally be playing for free to have a seat at the table. So it feels like a missed opportunity.

And I also don’t care because this has been so unpredictable and it feels like we don’t know what the next steps will be, so who knows if this will work out in the end. Also none of this actually matters, cosmically speaking so why should we care?

It’s also worth noting that Cal and Stanford are both schools rich in tradition and a lot of football people are landing the fact that the music appears to be stopping without those two schools having a chair, and that’s really unfortunate. This realignment stuff serves no one except executives.

Curtis: You make a lot of good points. These three schools obviously aren’t what you’d dream of as additions to the ATLANTIC coast conference. But the eventual departure of FSU, Clemson, etc will come one day, and what will be your choices to expand then? Tulane? UConn? It’s unfortunate that they cannot act now and see which way the wind is blowing.

Arthur: I mean I get it. It doesn’t fit in the geographic footprint. But they need to look around (look around!). Sorry, the song from Hamilton started playing in my head.

Grant: Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to have a Grant Of Rights right now...

Arthur: This is why we’re friends Grant. But yeah, everyone else had geographic footprints. But the winds of change are moving away from that. Stanford and Cal could have been great insulators, and are legit names. It feels like the ACC is ok with them going elsewhere. I don’t get it.

Niraj: As quickly as it was posed, it vanished, so I didn’t really have any feelings. Macro-level, I was absolutely here for it. As Bailin mentioned, good programs, added distribution & revenue, etc, but then there is the travel dilemma with primarily Olympic sports. Part of me wonders if you can make this work by finding some other schools out west and get creative with schedules to make travel more feasible. The [for now] Pac-12 softball players put it well speaking to the burden placed on the students. It is happening though, and clearly no one is stopping the machine

Counterpoint though, perhaps it’s a good recruiting pitch. Do you want to have to take on the stress constantly traveling around the country going to Rutgers or Maryland? Or do you want to have a life at BC?

Arthur: “C’mon. You really want to travel to Rutgers?” should be the recruiting pitch for every non Big Ten school nationwide.

Curtis: Yeah, the travel schedules and what we’re asking our student-athletes to do is starting to become ridiculous and I am happy that we won’t have to deal with it. Stanford and Cal’s players especially would’ve had it bad. But I do wonder if that’s going to be on old school way of thinking 10 or 20 years from now. So what does this mean for the future of BC? I think there will still be enough ACC schools leftover to keep the conference together, but looking at the PAC-12 I sure am nervous.

Arthur: I think what’s very helpful is that the networks seem very tapped-out money-wise. Any program leaving will have to do what the others did and take a severe pay cut for a while. I think that’ll be a hard pill to swallow for most of the conference members. The other issue is that the PAC-12’s tv network has virtually no carriage, which was part of what led to its lack of competitiveness on the national scale. The ACC’s network, meager as it is, has the backing of ESPN and a pretty strong nationwide distribution network. So to me this means three things:

  • First, if ESPN sunk all of these resources into the conference, they won’t be so quick to nuke it.
  • Second, coupled with the GOR and the TV network, the ACC has the resources to weather the storm.
  • Third, the Big 10 seems very tapped financially right now expansion-wise, and I don’t see FSU or Clemson taking on that GOR buyout to not have TV money coming in for a while.

It feels like the market forces are keeping things together, at least for the moment. The other thing is too, what killed the PAC-12 ultimately was that there was a place most of the conference to go, so people were able to jump ship to somewhere better. Right now it seems for the remaining teams staying together gives them more strength than apart.

That said, this feels ominous:

Curran: As far as Boston College goes, we are approaching the inevitability of not being in a tier-1, top stage of college athletics. Whether it happens as a result of the ACC imploding in the next few years like the PAC-12, or not until the 2030’s when the GOR expires, I think it is fact that at some point Clemson, FSU and the other big-time athletic programs leave for greener pastures. BC will not make it; we simply do not bring revenue or enough wins — especially with the Big 10 already seemingly exhausted of expansion. I think the best-case scenario for BC athletics is that the leftovers of the ACC eventually becomes a sort of “best of the rest,” academically rigorous yet competitive in athletics conference. Ideally, at some point schools like Vanderbilt and Northwestern are kicked out of the Big Boys league (they don’t belong, let’s be honest) and they would join as well. That’s why Stanford and Cal not being accepted to the ACC sucks; I think they would be a perfect fit for my dreamworld conference for BC.

Regardless, I think BC’s future is incredibly murky. No one except the schools themselves have any idea how strong the GOR really is. Tuesday is the deadline for any school giving notice of withdrawing from the league for the 2024 season, so we will get some clarity in the near future just how unhappy FSU and the other want-aways really are.