A World Without the Big East: Welcome to the Super-ACC

Ed's note: This is kind of long for my normal posts, so be forewarned. Also, I'm usually rather serious, but not so much here - though this has serious aspects, it's not a serious post. More of something I did when I was bored.

Hey, everybody's doing it: expansion. The Big Ten started the craze, and the Pac-10 has since joined in on the fun. You can bet that if the two major conferences around them start to expand - and probably cherry-pick some members - that the Big 12 will respond by adding a team or two of their own.

We could be on the cusp of a major conference re-alignment. And the Big East might just go down in the chaos.

Bill Stewart, West Virginia football's head coach, seems to think it's a done deal. He implies several times that it's just a matter of time before the Big East is done with and their schools absorbed by various other conferences. If that were to happen, there would be eight teams on the market, free to go wherever they choose. The ACC, despite issues surrounding expansion already, might have no choice but to expand and keep pace if a period of seismic change does occur. In the process, the Super-ACC would be formed.

First off, let's get the Pac-10 out of the way. They aren't a huge threat. They're on the West Coast, and I don't think they'll add too many teams the ACC is looking at. Utah, Colorado, Boise State, and BYU are all options for their expansion, should they go down that road. If Colorado leaves the Big 12, that conference will be forced to react, probably adding TCU or a team from C-USA.

Then there's the Big Ten, the bigwig of the process. Having been told that it makes financial sense, the question switched from if to when. They're reportedly looking at five schools, having been turned down by Texas: Notre Dame, Missouri, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse. Notre Dame is atop the list, and Missouri might be #2. Surprisingly, though, Rutgers may join before anyone else. If Missouri leaves the Big 12, they'll probably have to get another team to fill the slot, again considering a C-USA or Mountain West team.

And that, with the SEC content with their buckets of gold, leaves the ACC. If the Big Ten grabs teams from the Big East, you can bet they'll go under eventually; they're regarded as the weakest BCS conference, and even their own coaches apparently don't believe in them. The Big 12 is in danger, certainly, but is ultimately better off with money-makers like Texas football and Kansas basketball firmly in their grasp. If the ACC tries to keep pace with the rest, the Big East is where they'll go first, and it'll be a tough offer for some teams to turn down.

Let's assume for the sake of discussion that the Pac-10 goes the route of Utah and Colorado. The Big 10 ends up with 14; let's say one from the Big 12 (either Missouri or Nebraska), one from the Big East (Rutgers, "the frontrunner"), and Notre Dame, which surprisingly sees the writing on the wall. The Big 12 counters with TCU and a C-USA team like Houston, Rice, UTEP, or Tulsa. 

Where does that leave the ACC?  Syracuse would certainly be a big target; they were an option first time around, but decided to stay put. West Virginia, despite not being on the Atlantic Coast and not being a top-flight academic school, would make sense athletically. UCONN could join their New England brethren, Boston College; they provide decent football and solid basketball, and are a strong academic institution. 

Sure, they could go just grab two of those and go to 14, but why do that? The re-alignment would present a golden opportunity, a chance to not just keep pace but to gain an advantage. And with TV deals dwindling for the ACC, that's an opportunity that can't be passed up. So, I present the Super-ACC.

Syracuse, UCONN, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh all join the conference. All present a solid football and basketball presence (hear that, expansion members?), and are solid academic institutions, with the exception of West Virginia. The conference would then get rid of the ridiculous Atlantic/Coastal division, and divide thusly:

North: Boston College, Connecticut, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia

South: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest

Tobacco Road-ians are happy because they get their little conference within a conference. The balance of power is solid: UCONN, MD, Pitt, Syracuse, and WVU are all good North basketball schools, while the South has Tobacco Road on their side. BC, Pitt, VT, and WVU carry the North for football; FSU, Miami, Clemson, and Georgia Tech are the leaders for the South.

Football scheduling might expand to nine conference games; the seven other conference members, plus two from the other on a rotating basis (or one, if it remains at 8). Then the conference championship between North and South would be played in the geographic center of the conference, Washington, D.C. - most likely Danny Synder's FedEx Field, though RFK would also be an option.

Basketball would be similar to the Big East method. Each team would play every team once (for 15 games), and then play either one or three extra games against designated "rivals", like they do in football - that would preserve two matchups a year for UNC-Duke, Duke-MD, UVA-VT, and so on. The tournament location, based on the new BET, would rotate - one year in Greensboro, one year in Madison Square Garden, and one year in-between at the Verizon Center.

The resulting conference would be a powerhouse, both athletically and economically. Sure, it'd run into it's fair share of Big East problems, like the double-bye in the tournament, but they seem to be fairing okay with it presently. 

Is it likely? Of course not - Notre Dame joining the Big Ten is a longshot akin to finding a snowball in the pits of hell. It has plenty of issues, and God knows I'm not an actuary, so I can't say definitively if this would increase revenue. Honestly, I don't know if that "seismic" change will ever come. But it would be fun.

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