Conference Realignment In the Cards for Locals
Article By James O’Hara
Just a few months ago everyone was writing about the demise of the Big 12 and the rise of the four new super-conferences the Pac 12, Big 10, SEC, and ACC. After the moves of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC and two more teams, Texas A&M and Missouri, leaving the Big 12 this seemed like an easy conclusion. However now, while the rise of the super-conferences still seems to be on track, the ACC no longer seems to be a part of the party. First the Big 12 moved quickly to shore up the conference by adding solid schools in West Virginia and TCU. Then in what was a bit of a surprise, they tied themselves to the most stable conference in the SEC with the creation of the Champions’ bowl. These moves signaled that that the Big 12 was in it for the long haul, while at the same time the ACC made a horrendous TV deal for their football broadcast rights angering their football first members. Now there are heavy rumors that Florida State and Clemson will take their business to the Big 12, meaning the ACC is in serious trouble for staying relevant on the college football scene and staying together as a conference. If these moves come to pass there will be a variety of effects on the local schools Virginia Tech, Virginia, and Maryland, so let’s go through the best and worst options for each school.
Note: I do not have any magical insiders, I know only what has been made public and these are my best guesses based on the information available.
VT has a huge football fan base that spans most of Virginia and a majority of the D.C. area which any league will likely covet for maximizing TV deals. In addition out of the remaining ACC schools Tech is far and away the best in football. Their only issue is that the academics may not be up to snuff for a league like the Big 10, and the multiple reports that say they must move together with Virginia.
Best Case: In terms of a money and competition standpoint the best case for Tech is that they are able to split away from UVa and move into the SEC. While they will no longer be able to walk through the conference like they do in the ACC, they will still be able to bring in huge money and go to a solid bowl as the SEC has perhaps the best bowl tie-ins.
Worst Case: VT is forced to stay together with UVa and the Big 10 feels they are not good enough academically to join, forcing them to try to finagle their way into the Big 12, or more likely stay in whatever is left of the ACC. While they would be able to dominate the even weaker ACC, they would most likely be shut out of any big bowls or National Championships. As well as earning a lot less than they could in any of the other three conferences.
UVa has a decent program that can be competitive in any conference, but will never seriously compete for any sort of championship. They do have the sort of academic prestige that the Big 10 covets, but do not have the sort of fan base that would garner much interest from either the SEC or Big 12.
Best Case: UVa splits up from VT, while still keeping them as an out-of-conference game, and makes their way up north to the Big 10. They are a natural fit into a conference that values academics and old-school prestige nearly as much as they do competitive football. Like Tech in the SEC they could run in the middle of the pack and go to some great bowls, earning much more money than they do now.
Worst Case: VT splits away from them and heads to the SEC, but the Big 10 still holds out stubbornly on expansion leaving UVa stuck in a conference that is completely irrelevant in football and part of some weird salvage project from the leftovers of the Big East. While UVa is not the best team ever, they still earn a lot from football and losing that revenue would certainly hamper their ability to field competitive teams in other favored sports like lacrosse and baseball.
Maryland has been rumored to be getting interest from the Big 10 for the last two years, but I suspect that this talk is coming more from Terp Nation than it is anyone with the Big 10. From a football standpoint this could not come at a worst time as the Terps are coming off one of the worst years in all of college football. And from a TV standpoint it’s not much better, as despite being right outside D.C. both UVa and VT have bigger footprints in the D.C. market.
Best Case: The rumors of the Big Ten’s interest in them are true and they are able to make an easy transition to their new conference. While they will likely struggle to compete at first, there are still plenty of opportunities to do well in the Big Ten, while the Big Ten Network means they will rake in the money, helping a cash-strapped athletic department.
Worst Case: The Big Ten takes one look at the middling on and off field performance and immediately looks elsewhere for new members, leaving the Terps stuck with the also-rans in the ACC. Already swimming in debt, the loss of football revenue drives the athletic department over the edge and a majority of the athletics department is cut to save money.
For each of the best and worst cases above, there are about a million other things that could happen, but one thing is for sure that college football is not done shifting around yet. Hopefully all three of the local teams will have found nice homes before it’s all over.
James is a student at Virginia Tech studying Computer Science and Math. Baseball is his favorite sport as he has been playing it since the age of three. However he has a passion for nearly every other sport one can imagine as well and this has led him to attempting to contribute to a sports blog despite average writing grades in school. He is the main person tweeting behind the name @nextyeardc and gets way too excited whenever he sees he has a new mention.