With the additions of Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC, the Conference has put itself in a position of strength, especially after each of the current schools also agreed to increase the conference exit fee to $20 million dollars. The ACC is now the first BCS conference with 14 teams and added two schools that make the ACC arguably the best basketball conference while strengthening their football profile in the process. The additions of Pitt and Syracuse also give the ACC television markets in Pennsylvania and, more importantly, New York. The ACC seems to find itself positioned atop of the conference expansion world, but after the PAC 12 decided not to expand last night, that seems to indicate that the Big 12, in some form, will remain intact. And now it appears that Missouri going to the SEC to become their 14th team is not a done deal. So there is a chance that, despite the 14 team format and $20 million exit fee, the ACC could still lose a team to the SEC or another conference. So the wheels keep on turning...
For now, lets assume that ACC remains at 14 teams. What does that mean for Maryland?
1. The days of the ACC being focused in North Carolina are quickly fading away
Adding Pitt and Syracuse continues the trend, started by the ACC when they added Miami, BC and Virginia Tech, to shift the focus of the conference out of North Carolina and expand up and down the eastern seaboard. Adding Pitt and Syracuse provides leverage to both Maryland and Boston College, formerly the two northern-most ACC schools, and should allow each to successfully lobby to have events such as the ACC basketball tournament in cities such as New York, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. Previously, Maryland and BC were kind of the redheaded step children of the ACC. Since the ACC's founding in 1954, 46 of the 58 ACC basketball tournaments have been held in North Carolina. Despite being a founding member of the conference and despite the Washington, D.C. area being a much more desirable tourist destination than places like Greensboro, NC, the ACC tournament has been held a grand total of three times in the D.C. area. That's just over 5% for you math geeks out there.
When the ACC expanded to 12 teams a few years ago, one thing the new schools joining the conference insisted on was that the tournament would rotate out of Greensboro to places like Tampa, Atlanta and D.C. Adding schools like Pitt and Syracuse should give Maryland and BC more leverage to force the conference to have the tournament in places like Madison Square Garden or the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The exposure from those media markets trounces the exposure that you'd get by having the tournament in Greensboro. And while it's still in the planning stages, don't rule out a city like Baltimore hosting the ACC Tournament in the future. They're planning on building a new 18,000-19,000 seat arena that would have a hotel on top of it and attach to the existing convention center. That would be an ideal, all in one location to host an event like the ACC Tournament and would be a great fit geographically. Whether it happens or not, who knows, but getting the ACC Tournament off Tobacco Road and into northern cities can only benefit Maryland.
2. A 14 team league could mean Maryland no longer plays Duke or Virginia twice a year in basketball
One of the biggest losses from the first ACC expansion from nine to twelve teams was the home and home conference schedule, in which each school played each other twice per season. In order to make the loss of that scheduling format less painful, each school wanted a guarantee that they'd still play certain schools twice annually. For example, Duke and UNC always play twice, Maryland and Duke always play twice and Maryland and Virginia always play twice. In addition, each school also plays three other teams twice on a rotating basis to finish out the 16 game conference schedule (six teams once, Duke & UVA twice, three other teams twice = 6+4+6 =16).
Assuming the conference keeps a 16 game schedule, Maryland may lose their yearly home and home match up with Duke. You have to assume that the ACC wants to build a rivalry between Maryland and Pitt or Maryland and Syracuse, meaning both are top candidates to play Maryland twice annually. With a 14 team conference, each team would play each other once and would play three other teams twice. If that's the case, you'd assume that each school would get one guaranteed home and home and two rotating home and home match ups. If the conference maintained the two home and home guarantees, that means each school would have a home and home with the remaining school once every twelve years, rather than once every six years if they only had one guaranteed home and home yearly. This might come as a shock to Maryland fans, but if Duke only gets one home and home it's going to be with UNC. That means Maryland guaranteed home and home would be with either UVA, Pitt or Syracuse. I think only playing Duke at home every other year would be a tough pill for Maryland fans to swallow. There are other options, such as an 18 game conference schedule, but I don't know how likely/feasible that would be for the ACC.
3. Could Maryland finally develop a true rival to call their own?
For years, Maryland fans have been longing for a rival to call their own, a rival that is theirs and theirs alone. In football, that team is probably WVU, but their "real" rival is Pitt. Navy is another option but they have this rival called Army and I hear the game between them is kind of a big deal. In basketball, Duke is the obvious choice but their #1 rival is UNC. I've stated numerous times that teams can have multiple rivals, but Maryland fans still want that marque rival that they don't share with anyone else. Thus, I present to you the Syracuse Orange. I hadn't really thought about Syracuse as a possible rival until I read this awesome piece by SBN's Syracuse blog. Go check it out. And check out their site too. They do a great job and I really enjoy reading their pieces. Could a Cuse-Maryland rivalry work? I think so, but that's something that has to develop over time. You can't just toss two schools in a conference and say "Okay, be rivals....now!" But I certainly like the idea and potential for developing something with Syracuse.
4. The ACC might have the best lacrosse conference
Adding Syracuse to the ACC's lacrosse portfolio only strengthens an already dominant lacrosse conference. I haven't heard a lot of talk about this, but because of Maryland's rich lacrosse history, I thought it was worth mentioning as another positive from Maryland's perspective.
There are other issues out there which could potentially impact Maryland, including a new television deal and the financial impacts from that, but since Pitt and Syracuse aren't joining the ACC until 2014, speculating about that is probably a moot point right now. I felt these were the top issues from the realignment arms race. What do you think? Anything I'm missing?