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Testudo Times Realignment Roundtable

The topic of Big 10 expansion and Maryland has been rampant in the past few weeks, with a number of rumors and scenarios flying around, despite Debbie Yow's consistent denial that the Big 10 has called and spoken to the Terps. So we at Testudo Times decided to do a roundtable among Ben B., Ben G., and myself to discuss the various scenarios Maryland might be facing in the coming months.

Okay guys, the hot topic recently has been conference expansion and Maryland has been in the mix of almost every scenario thrown out there. As a result, Terps fans have had to think about what life would be like in the Big 10, dream of how an expanded ACC would appear, long for the days of a 9 team conference that allowed for the double round-robin format in basketball, and even ponder the collapse of the ACC. 

So lets look at various scenarios and try to break down what everything thinks. 

Scenario #1 - the Big 10 comes a callin.' Maryland will at least answer the phone but should they consider bolting the ACC for the Big 10? Does better revenue from the Big 10 network entice them enough to bolt the conference they helped found? If the Big 10 offers, is there any chance Maryland would accept and does it make sense to do so? Is more money enough to make up for the loss of playing Duke twice a year in basketball and dumping your other rivals, such as Virginia?

Ben B.: I really think it depends on the money as to whether or not they should seriously consider it. I assume there'd be an initial payout alongside the revenue increase, and they'd also need to factor in what schools are joining with them (ie, Texas and Notre Dame vs. Rutgers and Missouri). If there are some bigger names and the money is substantial, I do think there has to be serious consideration. Obviously, the biggest draw to stay in the ACC is twofold - the fact that Maryland founded the conference and the rivalries that exist within it. The athletic department will have to make a difficult decision on whether or not it's worth it.

Ben G.: Unless the Big 10 offers an exorbitant amount of money, I stay put.  Call me old school, but I'm one of those that believe Maryland belongs in the ACC.  Crab cakes, football, and making life miserable for the state of North Carolina is what we do.  Maryland helped found the ACC, and to leave 57 years of history and rivalries for a couple extra million bucks doesn't seem worth it to me.  If other major conferences pluck from the ACC and the conference gets weakened, maybe its time to think about a change.  But for now, I stay with what's familiar. 

Dave T.: Although the additional money that would likely come with joining the Big 10 might be tempting, I think the fact that Maryland was a founding member of the ACC and has some deep ties in the conference would prevent them from bolting, especially after receiving this most recent TV deal with ESPN. A few extra million just doesn't seem worth it to give up playing Duke, UNC and UVA. Plus joining the Big 10 would make it pretty hard for Maryland to compete in football. An 8-4 season in the ACC might mean a 4-8 season in the Big 10, so you have to also consider the lost revenue that would likely result in ticket/luxury box sales.


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Scenario #2 - The Big 10 grabs 5 other non-ACC schools and the Big East appears to be on their last legs. Should the ACC keep up with the arms race and go to 16 teams and if so, who would your ideal teams be for expansion? 

BB: Maybe not 16, but we need to expand. Syracuse, Pitt, and UConn are honestly no-brainers that would fit in very well. Then potentially Rutgers or maybe compromising academic integrity with West Virginia. We got a great email from a commenter the other day that laid out the ideal ACC, dividing up into two divisions and then two divisions within that based on geography. It was an interesting take that honestly made a lot of sense. I can see the ACC getting a serious boost both in football and basketball if this breaks right.

BG: I liked the ACC at 9 teams but it's becoming increasingly clearer that expansion is inevitable.  If the Big 10 expands heavily, I think the ACC has to answer.  Plucking from the Big East would seem to make the most sense, at least from a geographic standpoint.  Syracuse, UConn, West Virginia, and Pittsburg would be my picks.  The ACC would become undisputed basketball King, and the addition of WVU and Pitt would boost football, as well.  Also, adding Cuse to ACC lacrosse would be pretty sweet.     

DT: If the Big 10 goes to 16 teams, the ACC is going to have to act, just because of the impact that larger conferences will have on television rights, especially down the line. I'd be interested to see what, if anything, is in the league's new television deal with ESPN in regards to expansion. So if the Big 10 goes to the Big 16, I think the ACC needs to add at least two schools, if not four, but it depends on who's available. I think the two big ones you target are Pitt and Syracuse. Those give you two great basketball schools programs and one great and one good football program. It also helps balance out the league by providing more northern schools and now BC doesn't feel all alone up north. If they could also grab UConn and maybe Rutgers, I think you then go to 16. You'd increase your basketball and football quality while also balancing out the distribution of the conference. You'd then have UConn, BC, Syracuse, Pitt, Rutgers, Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech in the north and Duke, Carolina, NC State, Georgia Tech, Wake, Clemson, FSU and Miami in the south. That's a pretty good conference in terms of basketball (men's and women's), football, and lacrosse.

Scenario #3 - The Big 10 expands, but they only go to 14 teams - should the ACC also expand or should they stand pat? Do you also go to 14 or do you one up (or in this case two up) them and go to 16? Many ACC traditionalists long for the days of a 9-team conference and feel the last expansion to 12 teams has diluted basketball and hasn't made the ACC into a dominant football conference. So is expanding again worth it? Would the ACC have to act for their own survival? Do you expand only if you can add two ideal teams?

BB: This one really depends on the teams that join the ACC. If Syracuse and Pittsburgh remain, I say grab ‘em up immediately. If one leaves for the Big Ten, then I'm much less gung-ho. Throwing in a West Virginia or Connecticut would, as I see it, dilute the conference quite a bit more than a Syracuse or Pitt; I'm no traditionalist, but it's difficult to argue that expansion hasn't had a profound effect on the ACC.

Quite frankly, a 14-team Big Ten isn't quite as imposing as a 16-team one. If they decide to go to 16 I don't think the ACC is compelled to respond either way, and certainly not compelled to going to 16. I don't think I'd be opposed to it, but I wouldn't be driving the bandwagon.

BG: I'm one of those ACC traditionalists but at this point, why bother?  The ACC isn't going back to nine teams anytime soon.  Regardless of what the Big Ten does, I only expand if an ideal situation presents itself.  Like if Syracuse and UConn both come a callin' and want in.  Otherwise, I hold tight and see what happens.  If it looks like the SEC and Big 12 are going to expand as well, the ACC needs to make a move for the sake of survival.  If those two conferences are content at 12, then I stay put.

DT: I'm going to echo both of you on this one and say a 14 team Big 10 doesn't necessitate ACC expansion, but if two ideal teams were available (Syracuse, UConn or Pitt) I think the conference should jump at the idea of adding quality academic and sports institutions to your conference. But I also like the idea of the ACC setting the bar and just going for the 16 team conference, enabling them to get the pick of the litter.

Scenario #4 - Big 10 expansion starts a domino effect that results in several ACC schools leaving for other conferences, such as FSU, Miami and maybe even Clemson. Remember, FSU and Miami are semi-recent additions to the conference (especially Miami) so they don't have the founding institutional ties that other schools in the conference possess. Who are your ideal replacement schools? Or do you think the ACC should kick it old school and go back to a 9 team conference (seems extremely unlikely)?

BB: I get out of dodge in that scenario. If that's impossible, we essentially become the Big East. Come on in Memphis, East Carolina, USF, and Big Ten leftovers. Yuck. The only potential way to avoid that will be to go back to the 9-team conference, and it might work as a temporary fix. I'm sure the three account for a large amount of revenue for the conference, but would those random other schools actually add to the ACC's potential revenue? If not, then maybe sticking it out at 9 and waiting for another opportunity a few years down the road might be a prudent move, assuming that the ideal candidates aren't available.

 If just those three schools leave and ideal candidates remain, then I say we replace them with three more in the north and completely shift the balance of power. If Syracuse, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, or Connecticut are still available, the conference wouldn't see a gigantic drop-off. It might actually work out a little better for Maryland.

BG: If the three aforementioned schools leave, my dream replacements would be Syracuse, UConn, and Penn State.  Now prying Penn State from the Big 10 would be next to impossible, but hey, the question said "ideal" scenario.  The ACC needs a boost in football.  Penn State would undoubtedly provide that boost.  Plus think about the new rivalries that would emerge from adding those three schools.  With UConn, we'd get Calhoun vs. Gary every year.  A series with Syracuse would give Terp fans an annual opportunity to complain about how all the great Baltimore basketball talent goes elsewhere.  And PSU/MD would be an awesome rivalry between two neighboring state schools.  Throw in a Huskies/Terps Women's basketball rivalry, and the addition of Syracuse lacrosse, and you're talking about one of the most well rounded conferences in the country.  This expansion idea is slowly growing on me... 

DT: Well, I really hope this doesn't happen, but I don't think we can rule it out. An opportunity for a big football school like Clemson, Miami or FSU to join either the Big 10 or SEC would be too good to pass up, I think. So we better hope that doesn't happen. I think the threat of those schools leaving could help drive and push the ACC to expansion, but we'll have to see. If those schools did leave, I'd say Pitt, Syracuse and UConn would be my top replacement. And if they tried to go all out and join the 16 conference party, you'd have to look at adding West Virginia into the mix, because of their quality in basketball and football, despite their academic standings. And then maybe you're looking at Rutgers, and as Ben B. suggested, maybe East Carolina and USF. Both of those, especially East Carolina, don't carry the same academic prestige that the current conference does, but you'd probably have to look past that once you reached that point and if you're letting WVU in, letting in East Carolina is well above them in academic standings. Basically I hope we never have to deal with this scenario. The end result could be ugly for the ACC. I'd love to go old school to the 9 team conference, but I just don't see revenue wise, how that 9 team make up could survive for more than a few years.

Scenario #5 - The Big 10 only goes to 12 teams - should the ACC set the bar and go to 16? It seems like eventually there are going to be four super conferences, so should the ACC go after the teams they want and be ahead of the game?

BB: No. The Big Ten would be huge if they added Notre Dame, but the impetus just isn't there. Again, I don't think I'm opposed to expansion, but I wouldn't be calling for it (even if Syracuse, Pitt, Rutgers, and UConn would all be available). Also, there's not much reason for the other schools to leave their current conferences if those conferences are safe.

BG: Not quite yet.  If the Big 10 goes to 12, that puts them right with the ACC, SEC, and Big 12.  No need to panic and shake things up until any of the conferences move past 12.  Once that happens, the ACC has to act and it has to act fast.  Grabbing from the Big East seems to be the most likely scenario and there are certainly some attractive teams in there.  Again, if an ideal situation comes up (aka Syracuse or UConn look to make a switch) then the ACC should be all over it.  But until any of the major conferences expand past twelve, I think it's alright to stay pat and see what happens.    

DT: I'd say the ACC doesn't have to act, but maybe they should. The conference raided the Big East a few years ago so they could get a conference championship game in football, so why not be proactive again? You've already ruined the 9-team round robin regular season in basketball, so why not try to make the basketball and football more competitive by adding schools like Pitt, Syracuse, Rutgers and even, as Ben G. suggested, trying to steal Penn State away from the Big 10?  If the ACC sets the 16-team bar, they get first dibs at the buffet. I'd rather have that then having to scramble for leftovers as a result of another conference's expansion. I just think some team is going to try to get an edge in terms of revenue by being the premier conference in terms of size and quality. Why can't that be the ACC?

Remember, while many believe the Big East has the biggest potential to collapse as a result of expansion, they've already hired Paul Tagliabue as a special consultant for expansion, so they might be a leg up on the ACC and that might mean that they're better prepared to act and to prevent others from trying to pluck schools from away. The ACC better be ready to act in every scenario, including adding teams.


Final thoughts - how do you think everything will play out? Will the Big 10 expand and where will the Terps end up when the dust settles?

BB: Trying to predict this will probably result in prognostications that seem ridiculous in hindsight. My gut tells me that the Big Ten will go to 14 and grab at least one big name school in the process. My head tells me they'll got to 12 or 14 but with teams like Missouri and Nebraska; not game-changers. Either way, the ACC will have the ability to better themselves as a conference unless there is an utter doomsday scenario (SEC grabs Miami, FSU; B10 takes Syracuse, Pitt) and that doesn't seem likely right now.

For the record, I don't see this as an apocalyptic moment in college sports, at least not yet. It may have that potential if things turn out poorly, but it also has the ability to alter - not detract from - the way we watch sports, maybe even improve upon it. The odds of that are long, but I'm wary to judge a potential scenario before seeing the way it plays out. In the longrun.

BG: I think the Big 10 will expand relatively soon.  There's just too much talk for absolutely nothing to happen.  However, I think they'll just go to 12, in which case the ACC will probably remain unchanged.  I highly doubt the Terps make the jump to the Big 10 for many of the obvious reasons mentioned above.  For now, the Terps will be in a 12-team ACC.  Five years from now, the landscape of college athletics could look completely different.

 DT: I think the Big 10 is going to try to become the Big 16. Whether they target Maryland or not is debatable. But even if they do, I don't see Maryland bolting the ACC for the Big 10. I think if the Big 10 calls, that gives Maryland leverage to come back to the ACC and say "Add more northern school like Pitt, Syracuse and UConn and shift the balance of the conference north out of North Carolina, or we will leave." All of the work that goes into expansion would just leave me to believe the Big 10 is going to go all out. If they only go to 12 this time around, if they ever discuss expansion again, their hand will be tipped and everyone will know they're going to try to go to 14 or 16, which would likely set up a domino arms race across all of the major conferences. Right now, no one knows what they'll do, so they have the element of surprise. But again, we'll just have to wait. I just hope the ACC doesn't get raided or have to expand for survival and add teams that water down basketball or football even further. That's why I really think they should be proactive in this process and go after teams now.

What do you all think? What is your ideal scenario? Who's wrong? Who's right? Let us know your thoughts about our comments on these various scenarios and how you think things will shake out.