Phew. What a whirlwind 48 hours. We'll get to more stuff about the two newest members of the ACC, but if Maryland has any say, the train isn't stopping here. Per the Jeff Barker at the Baltimore Sun, the Terrapins' athletic department is partnering with - get this - Duke, in privately pushing for the addition of two more teams, thereby making the ACC the first conference to go to 16.
Maryland and Duke are among those privately expressing interest in a 16-team conference, according to ACC-member representatives with knowledge of recent private discussions. According to the representatives, other ACC schools also favor moving to 16 but at least one unnamed member was against expansion. [...]
But officials from two ACC schools cautioned Sunday that the conference was not close to being ready to approve Connecticut - not all members are on board with that move - or any other school as a 15th or 16th member. The officials, who declined to be named while the matter was ongoing, declined to put a timetable on the next possible expansion.
Barker singles out Rutgers and UConn as two of the schools under consideration, and that's no surprise. He also mentions that Florida State wants to make sure that the football profile of the conference remains high through any further expansion.
And John Swofford himself seems moderately open to the idea of getting even bigger, saying he isn't "philosophically opposed" to the conference going to 16 teams. And if they want to, they'll have plenty of options, given that Swofford also claimed that at least 10 schools had contacted him about membership.
So, if the conference wanted to add two more - or, if the Big Ten or SEC poaches one of their members, one or three more - where would they look? Remember that the ACC appears to be looking for geographic and cultural fits, both of which apply to Pitt and Cuse. This isn't the Pac-12 adding Oklahoma; both Pitt and Syracuse make sense even without money factoring in, and I'm guessing that is an actual concern for the conference through all of this. Keeping that in mind, let's look at the options:
UConn. Frontrunner #1, Connecticut is a great fit for what the Super-ACC appears to be looking for. They're eminently eastern, with good academics, a decent fanbase, some penetration into a big TV market, great basketball, and not-embarrassing football. And importantly for Maryland, they'd continue to move the conference's geographic center farther north and much closer to College Park. They're aggressively pursuing membership already anyway.
Rutgers. Frontrunner #2, based on what the media keep saying. Rutgers is basically Connecticut, except in New Jersey and much worse in basketball. I'm not in love with adding RU, mostly because I'm not sure what they bring that Connecticut doesn't (and less efficiently, at that) except a few more eyeballs in NYC - and, really, I'm not entirely sold on that, either. I wouldn't be opposed to it if that's what ended up happening, but I feel like the conference could probably do better.
Texas. Sorry: doesn't look like this is happening. Now that the ACC holds most of the leverage in realignment, it looks like the idea of Texas to the ACC has cooled off on both sides. Texas didn't want to share revenue, and once it became clear that the ACC's future as a conference wasn't threatened, the conference wasn't as receptive to the idea of letting Texas have an unmodified LHN. It appears the Longhorns are all-in for the Pac-12 now. That may not be a bad thing; Texas wasn't a geographical or cultural fit, and the idea of bringing along Texas Tech or Kansas with them was a little nauseating.
Louisville. I live in the Looeyville area now, and I have some conflicted feelings about this. On the good side, Louisville makes tons of financial sense. The city has no pro sports except a minor league team, so the Cardinals in essence have become their pro team, and they support them ferociously. They bring along a Richmond-sized TV market, plus one of the biggest, most flush athletic departments in the country. UL basketball is the 21st most profitable program in the country ... including football. That is, Louisville basketball makes more money than Florida State football. And that was before the state-of-the-art, terribly-named Yum Center opened up.
And hey, they're a basketball school with decent football, which again fits the profile. Geographically, things wouldn't be terrible - for Maryland, a trip to Louisville isn't any worse than a trip to Boston or Miami - but I have cultural concerns. First of all, they certainly aren't "eastern," either culturally or geographically. Louisville is a Midwestern river city at its heart, and past that there's some of the Kentucky Derby-type southern genteel you'd expect. There's very little "Atlantic coast" personality here, either in the city or the school. And academically, though improving, they'd instantly be the lowest-ranked school in the conference. They should still be considered for financial reasons, but it'd be a tough decision to make.
West Virginia. For some reason you hear people say this is a fit, and perhaps it makes some modicum of sense geographically, but I think most people who know WVU know they aren't. They don't fit in either culturally or academically, which is the big killer to their bid. Their programs are profitable enough for them, but I'm not sure what they bring to a conference. Hopefully no legs to this.
South Florida or Central Florida. The conference already has penetration into every major TV market in the Sunshine State, so USF and UCF would do nothing more than take away from the pie while adding decent, not great, football teams. Not good enough.
Kansas or Kansas State. Don't fit in at all, and add only one worthwhile program - Kansas basketball. The three other revenue sports don't really do much at all.
Notre Dame or Penn State. Hey, might as well go for the jugular. I've heard some fans talk about both as potential ACC targets. ND isn't a fit in any way besides money, but Penn State would fit in just fine. Besides the fact that they're in the B1G already, of course. Then again, they're not much more in love with the conference than, say, Maryland was in love with the old ACC. I doubt anything would happen, but you never know.
So, exit question: you're John Swofford (hypothetically, I hope). Who do you go after? Who do you invite? Do you do anything? Discuss.