FanPost

UNC's realignment options if the ACC implodes

This is from "Frank The Tank's Slant," specifically a commentator named "Duffman," about what might happen in Chapel Hill if Clemson and Florida State hightail it to the Big 12. Interesting options in Chapel Hill should Florida State and Clemson upset the status quo and leave for the Big 12 -- especially the ramifications facing UNC + UVa vs. NCSU + VT.
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Is UNC like Texas?

Again, all this is predicated on what happens. Losing Florida State is not the same as Clemson because Clemson is a charter ACC school. The discussion here is limited to when the ACC as we know it can no longer hold a place at the grown up table. While some may view them as Ivy League Lite, they are still large state schools, and beholden to the populace in their home state for funding and BoT composition. While some on FtT view UNC as a game changer, like Texas, they are not! If basketball is 25% – 33% of football that is a very small bargaining chip when compared to the majority stake holder in football. UNC vs Duke – like the Red River Rivalry – is limited in scope when viewed in the context of the entire schedule. Look at it this way based on each decision tree available to the tarheels.

#1 The ACC exists, but as a shell of its former self

Without football the ACC becomes a newer version of the Big East with dwindling football revenue and fan support. Stadium crowds draw between 20K and 60K with an average game drawing maybe 40K fans. Odds of getting to a championship narrows greatly along the same vein of a MWC/CUSA/BE type conference. Any remaining ACC schools with any football possibility – Miami / Georgia Tech / NCST / Virginia Tech / Maryland – are going to feel more pressure as the money they receive grows smaller and smaller.

Given this situation IS NOT like Texas as UNC has no PUF, they are not a Top 10 football program, and they do not have another Top 10 football program at their side like Texas has Oklahoma. Texas is #1 in sports revenue according to Forbes, and Oklahoma is #10, while not a single ACC team made the Top 20! It is a death by a 1,000 cuts as the gaps between ACC football (and other sports) and schools at the grown up table widens each and every year. If you are a governor, donor, voter, taxpayer, or businessman this means lost money and jobs for schools that get left behind. Wake Forest may be doomed to a CUSA lifestyle, but that will not set well with a school used to being in a position of power. UVA may have the luxury of being a private / public state school, but UNC does not operate with that luxury.

No politician will sit by and let this happen if they want to get re-elected, and no group of non alumni voters will sit on their hands while the flagship school is reduced to second class status. Michigan may have alumni who buy the seats and the merchandise, but without the Wal-Mart Wolverines buying gear, and more importantly putting eyeballs in front of the TV, the value of Michigan as a media property is greatly reduced. It may be the thing nobody wants to talk about, but no school in college sports can survive on alumni dollars and eyeballs alone. Given a fade to obscurity or survival in a new conference, UNC must move where they are no longer in control or perish by standing still.

The next steps are possibilities, moving up the ladder for long term survival strategy

#2 The ACC exists, but it merges with the Big East

The important thing to remember here is this merger does not mean the ACC and Big East as we knew it in 2010 before conference realignment where :

Big East = Uconn, SU, Pitt, RU, WVU, UC, UL, USF
ACC AD = BC, Clemson, FSU, MD, NCST, WF
ACC CD = VT, GT, Miami, UVA, UNC, Duke

But may look like
@ 16 teams
Uconn, SU, Pitt, RU, UC, UL, BC, MD
NCST, WF, VT, GT, Miami, UVA, UNC, Duke
@ 12 teams
Uconn, SU, Pitt, RU, UC, BC
MD, NCST, WF, UVA, UNC, Duke

Not bad but certainly not setting the world on fire. Maybe seating in the 40K – 60K range for the good games. You have a solid east coast market and you may get Notre Dame as a member in everything but football. It keeps the Irish with the independence they crave, and gives the ACC some additional eyeballs, but having Notre Dame as a member in everything but football sure did not stop the destruction of the Big East as we knew it over the past decade. UNC could rule this collective, but 2 primary issues remain unresolved:

a) UNC would step down in power from where they are in sports

b) If NCST moved to the SEC it would be Clemson / South Carolina the sequel

#3 UNC joins the PAC

While the probability from a logistics standpoint is near zero it does allow for a PAC 16 with 3 pods in the west, and 1 in the east. UNC + Duke + UVA + GT would all fit as an academic + sports competition add that would expand Larry Scott’s PAC to new TV sets in the east. Long term it probably creates as many problems as it solves, but I mention it as a possibility for out of the box thinking that Scott seems to embrace. UNC and UVA support baseball, and the PAC allows this to remain. If UCLA can get back to the top and stay there, it would give the PAC solid basketball presence on both coasts. Stanford and UNC are competitive in the Directors Cup and seem to mesh in desire to win this type of trophy.

#4 UNC joins the B12

With a probability greater than a PAC move, it seems low at best as UNC would be under the thumb of Texas, and if Nebraska did not like it, chances are UNC will like it even less. If Clemson and Florida State do go to the B12, it seems hard to believe the Tarheels would follow the very schools that killed the ACC in the first place. The bigger issue is the GoR for the B12 is only 7 years or so which means Texas could still wind up in the PAC where they already tried to go in both the 1990′s and now 2010′s. In another decade or so could the longhorns still bolt for the PAC? I think the answer is quite possible, and that alone should make any school take notice before joining the B12.

#5 UNC joins the B1G

On the surface this seems like the most probable outcome, it is not assured. Delany is a UNC grad, the academics fit, and on paper the sports fit. Before I break out the bubbly to celebrate some stumbling blocks need to be addressed before I consider it a done deal. They are real obstacles:

a) The number 16
People say passing 16 would be easy for the B1G, but I disagree. 12 gets you a CCG, and 16 gets you pods, but 17+ gets you diminishing returns, bigger revenue moats to cross, and makes the conference more unwieldy as a whole. The problem is to take the ACC 4 + Notre Dame the math does not work. UNC / UVA / Duke / MD / RU / GT / Miami / Notre Dame all in the B1G just does not work. If 16 is the new 12, then it is adopted by the other power conferences as well. Passing 16 would mean another expansion war with the PAC and SEC and that really does raise the specter of the government getting involved in college sports with a a regulatory agency. The base issue in 16 is that the B1G can add the ACC 4 or Notre Dame, but they can not do both.

b) The line of supply
Early on in this blog I suggested Kentucky as the next B1G add and was soundly trounced. Yet these same voices were suggesting Georgia Tech and Miami in the same breath. I still believe having neighbor states in the group is the best long term strategy for realignment. Adding Miami or Georgia Tech with no touching states seems like an issue of defending territory with a maxed line of supply while surrounded by enemy hostiles. Adding Maryland, then UVA, then UNC + Duke makes some sense, but adding UNC without such a supply line seems like a long term plan for failure. Just as trying to hold an island like Georgia Tech or Miami has always seemed far fetched to me, the notion of adding ACC schools like UNC + Duke without a bridge of Kentucky or Maryland seems like an invitation to disaster.

c) The cultural fit

It feels like Maryland and Duke would fit the B1G better, I still see UVA as Ivy League, and UNC as southern. While we discuss academics and sports here we are far too short in how the locals view THEIR state university. Duke and Miami have dictatorships in that the college president really can make a move without the approval of the governor. Put the shoe on the other foot for a moment and think how the Wal Mart Wolverines would feel if Michigan moved to the B12. Would Buckeye fans without a degree from Ohio State suddenly embrace a move to the SEC just because Gee said he wanted it? My guess is riots might start in Ann Arbor and Columbus with such news breaking to the local (mob) populace! Yet we as armchair realignment quarterbacks seem to think we know more of how the locals will react than the actual locals. This is a big part of the equation, and we keep forgetting to add it to the discussion.

#6 UNC joins the SEC

a) The number 16
The "white whale" discussion for every other conference is Notre Dame, but the SEC has UNC as their "white whale" and for a school used to being popular, the folks in Chapel Hill are smart enough to know this. Slive can say to UNC we are holding a space for you and another school YOU chose to finish out our realignment to 16. Adding UNC and another southern school means pods or divisions that can easily mesh with where UNC wants to be on the national level in multiple sports. If Slive lands 16 including UNC, he would have no reason to break that barrier. Planting a flag in NC with UNC + NCST or UNC + Duke would solidify the footprint without cannibalizing it.

b) The line of supply
UNC + Duke or UNC + NCST or UNC + UVA or UNC + VT all are a simple border expansion for the SEC. In the B1G, crossing KY/SEC, TN/SEC, or WV/B12, is necessary to reach UNC. In the SEC the Tarheels share a border with SC, GA, and TN. If the SEC added UVA with UNC, then UNC in the SEC means being totally surrounded by SEC states. UNC would not be an island state in the SEC, but an actual part of the SEC continent.

c) The cultural fit
Professors until they get tenure are as transient as coaches in sports, while employees are probably native born and more anchored in southern roots and culture. How many students or teachers will be at UNC in 5 or 10 years? How many native residents will still be in Chapel Hill in that same time frame? To this group the academic standing of Northwestern to Vanderbilt means little to them. Florida is equal to Ohio State in their view of academics, but they are light years apart in how they view their culture. If UNC does not wind up in the B1G this would be the counterpoint to the academic argument of the B1G. Before being quick to dismiss this, think how a B1G would react to future membership in the B12 or SEC. I am guessing the cultural crowd would drown out the academic crowd in that discussion. Is it so hard to see the folks inside of the NC borders reacting the same way?

I think UNC in the B1G is about 60% and UNC in the SEC is about 40% but I really think the tipping scale will be how UNC views the reactions to their actions over the action itself.

If UNC goes to the B1G, and leaves the SEC to add NCST while UVA goes to the B1G, and leaves the SEC to add VT, they have opened the very real door of becoming number #2 in their home state. Like it or not the SEC at this time holds the catbird seat in football, basketball, baseball, and W basketball. Granted Pat no longer coaches the Vols, and the SEC has no power in hockey, these are the lesser of the "demand" sports. With TAMU and Missouri now in the SEC they may have the power to dominate baseball the way they have in football. UNC and UVA both have baseball programs, and neither will flourish in the B1G unless the home office and Delany push the B1G to do so. Right now the SEC and PAC have 3 schools each in the WCWS while the B1G and ACC have none. While this may not seem like much, imagine if it is the CWS in 5 years with the same numbers. All that ESPN coverage is being dominated by just 2 conferences. Perception becomes reality.

If the ACC no longer exists NCST in the SEC means a serious threat to recruiting NC for football, basketball, and baseball. The same applies to UVA and the state of VA going to VT. This can not sit well for either of the flagship schools if they are marginalized by their "little brothers" over time. The better strategic move would be to hobble their "little brothers" now while ensuring the better long term solution. UNC and UVA in the SEC means NCST and VT wind up in the B12 which is much less stable, and much more centered on Texas and Oklahoma.

If UNC and UVA wind up in the B1G, it means they have sent NCST and VT to the SEC. The SEC is wealthy, stable, and promotes each school to grow to add to the collective. Clemson said no to the SEC, and watched their "little brother" outstrip them in 20 years. Texas having TAMU now fully funded in a much bigger footprint has to watch the next 20 years with the possibility that they will be cannibalized by their "little brother" in the fight for TV sets in Texas.

In short, where UNC and UVA wind up may end up being about where they want their "little brothers" to wind up when the dust settles. UNC may be Texas-like, but not even close in size, wealth and football prowess.

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Some good points there. Without powerhouse football, UNC may be in for a rude awakening if massive realignment comes about.

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