ACC gets ahead of expansion -- again

September, 18, 2011
9/18/11
3:25
PM ET
The ACC has just upgraded to Expansion 2.0.

The first version was good. It was on the cutting edge. And, despite a few bugs in the system (no titles for Miami), it’s still functioning properly.

The second version, though, runs much faster.

The ACC’s decision to accept Pittsburgh and Syracuse as its newest members came swiftly, efficiently, and was a far tidier process than the last time the conference decided to expand. In a matter of a week, the ACC decided further growth was in the best interests of the conference, and seemingly overnight, it became a reality. With ACC football teams hosting four ranked opponents for the first time in league history and making a statement in three of those games, this was a monumental weekend in ACC history. While other BCS conferences are tiptoeing around the ever-shifting landscape, hoping their programs don’t fall through the cracks, the ACC has rapidly reestablished and reaffirmed its stability.

Now everyone else wants in on Expansion 2.0.

Texas? Please hold.

Notre Dame? We’re sorry, the commissioner’s line is busy.

Rutgers? Take a number, please.

Syracuse? Bienvenido a Miami.

ACC commissioner John Swofford, who directed the ACC through Expansion 1.0 when it added Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College in 2004 and 2005, said at least 10 schools have contacted the ACC about possible membership, and why shouldn’t they? The ACC has only further solidified its future with the decisions that have been made in the past week. The recently approved $20 million exit fee it would cost schools to leave all but eliminates any chance of member schools bolting for another conference.

The addition of Pitt and Syracuse will further boost the league’s image as one of the best basketball conferences in the country. It will bridge the geographic gap between Boston College and the rest of the conference. It will add intrigue to the ACC football championship. The reputations of Pitt and Syracuse will only enhance a conference already steeped in academic pride and tradition.

When asked what concerns she had about the state of the Big East that might lead to the $5 million decision to leave it, Nancy Cantor, chancellor and president of Syracuse University, said she was looking for some “stability.”

She didn’t have to look far.

“Obviously as my colleagues have all said,” she said, “we needed to look carefully at the stability for us going forward in terms of us being able to support our athletics department to the extent that gives quality opportunities for our student athletes, and I think that match is just perfect for us.”

Expanding to 16 teams still remains a possibility for the ACC, but the league can be choosy. It’s like looking for a home when you know you don’t need to sell yours. It’s more fun when there’s less pressure. The ACC can sit back and watch as the Big 12 implodes, the Big East dissolves and the SEC wonders what to do now that poaching an ACC team is a much more unrealistic possibility.

The ACC took control of expansion before expansion took control of it.

It’s a new version of the ACC, and considering the uncertainty surrounding it, this one looks like an upgrade.

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