UNC and FSU: The Gatekeepers for the Future of The ACC
While fan bases within the ACC are giddy at the thought of the grass being greener in other conferences, when it comes to moving up in the world, only two schools and arguably one, control their own destiny. Fans on message boards have dreams of Alabama and Texas home games dancing in their heads, but in reality those games will remain the exception rather than the rule. Once a decade those power programs will roll into town, but the majority of the games will be against division rivals, who look an awful lot like the ACC teams that fanbases were so eager to leave behind.
Florida State’s Board of Trustee’s chairman, Andy Haggard, and others are concerned about financial differences between themselves and the University of Florida, their in-state, but out of conference rival. The proposed solution of going to the Big 12, however, leaves Florida State perhaps a few million dollars richer, but now operating at an financial disadvantage with a school in their conference. No matter what the Seminoles do with their Tier 3 rights (the phrase of the month) it will pale in comparison to what Texas brings in with the Longhorn Network. They must also balance the effects on recruiting as well. Will the shift to a conference based half a country away have a discernible impact and if so, how much?
The Big 12 ironically stands at ten teams, with the addition of West Virginia and potentially two ACC schools, the move is clearly east. When the 16 schools are finally rounded up, will the Seminoles be staring at a division with Miami, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Pitt, and TCU. Those would be the schools dominating the Noles’ schedule year in and year out. They would get games with OU and Texas two out of every seven years, with one home game against each every eight years.
If Florida State decides to jump, another ACC school could well join them. This week, it’s seemingly Clemson, or at least their board of trustees and fans would like to think so. The problem for the Tigers is they’re not desirable on their own. They need some coattails to cling to and with fans tailgating outside the Board of Trustees meeting, the smell of the grills reeks of desperation, not passion. They’re the guy hanging around a bar at 2 AM, hoping an attractive guy needs a wingman. Similar things can be said about other ACC programs, but they aren’t wearing their stank so overtly. Florida State holds all the cards, or so it appears at first blush, but this is where things get sticky.
If they get the ‘ACC destruction’ ball rolling, they might find themselves in a worse situation if UNC decides to act, and they will have to if their hand is forced. UNC may find themselves faced with deciding between self-preservation or loyalty to their ACC brethren and it would be irresponsible to not be selfish. Selfish for UNC, the crown jewel of poachable programs (with due respect to the defiantly independent Notre Dame), will mean going to the SEC, and likely taking a school from Virginia with them. Regardless of how long other fanbases have dreamed and schemed, should UNC decide to move, they jump to the head of the line. A natural fit for the SEC East, with recent monstrous expenditures to improve their stadium and facilities, the long referred to sleeping giant may finally awake in football. With the addition of two quality programs in two states rich with TV sets (10th and 12th in population), the SEC’s TV contracts could rise again, while Florida State would likely find itself in a division with castoffs from the ACC and Big East. The financial difference between Florida State and Florida would again be prevalent and they will be cemented in a second tier conference once again. For all the fans eager for change, be careful what you wish for.
The opinions expressed are Colin’s and his alone. Feel free to complain to @ColinWFNZ on twitter.