Much of the initial knee-jerk reaction to the partnership announced on Friday between the Big 12 and SEC was doom and gloom for the ACC. The marriage between two of the strongest conferences in the country would squeeze out and freeze out the weaker ACC.
The Rose Bowl wannabe has already been portrayed as the cool lunch table where the ACC wasn’t invited to sit.
Some things never change.
In case you didn’t notice, the ACC wasn’t at the same table to begin with. It was sitting with its Big East buddies picking the leftovers out of the Orange Bowl. The Big 12-SEC bowl isn’t going to change that fact. And it’s hardly going to be the granddaddy of them all. More like K-State vs. Georgia.
It’s called the Cotton Bowl.
Odds are the best teams from the Big 12 and the SEC will wind up playing in a four-team postseason playoff -- a system that could actually help the ACC, as it would have to finish in the top four instead of the top two to challenge for a title, and it could leave open the possibility of more favorable matchups. It’s not like ACC officials have been clamoring for an annual ACC-Big 12 bowl game, anyway. Far more important to the ACC than the new bowl is how the four teams in the playoff are to be selected. Don’t expect any changes until the dust has settled on those conversations.
The ACC coaches are in favor of league champions earning preference in the selection process, as they should be. What the SEC and Big 12 did was clever -- very clever. The perception is that if the Champions Bowl and the Rose Bowl become glorified semifinals in the playoff system, the ACC may as well start calling itself the Sun Belt. In reality, though, it doesn’t seem like a scenario all 11 conference commissioners would allow: Only four conferences have a shot at the national title? Is that even legal? And you thought Congress was involved before …
It’s not time yet for ACC fans or league officials in Greensboro to panic. There was no need for ACC commissioner John Swofford to call Notre Dame yesterday. Swofford has a tough task, though, no doubt. In addition to keeping conference membership intact, topping his list of priorities should be finding the league more revenue, a better path to the national title game, and a better bowl lineup with more intriguing matchups.
All of that is just as attainable today, though, as it was on Friday when the Big 12 and SEC announced Cotton Bowl II. Who’s to say the changes to the postseason wouldn’t open the door for the Orange Bowl to partner with Notre Dame and the ACC? Who’s to say the ACC wouldn’t partner with the SEC or Big Ten? You could argue that the Champions Bowl should be of bigger concern to the Fiesta and Sugar Bowls than the ACC.
When it comes to competition, the ACC is undoubtedly on the outside looking in, as far as strategy and negotiations go, Swofford has earned his seat. There’s not much he can do regarding bowl alliances, though, until the new playoff format is decided upon.
Will the new partnership make the Big 12 and/or SEC more enticing to ACC schools like Clemson and Florida State? Of course. More money is always tempting. But don’t forget they’ve got to spend between $20-$25 million to leave the ACC, first. And why make the path to the national title more difficult when you can dominate the fifth-best conference in the land? Bobby Bowden figured that one out. Truth is, nobody knows if anybody’s going anywhere just yet. There have been rumors about Clemson. Speculation about Virginia Tech. The one team the ACC can’t afford to lose, though, is Florida State.
The ACC athletic directors had a teleconference at 3 p.m. on Friday to make sure everyone was aware of the latest news. All 12 of them were dialed in.
Immediate change seems unlikely -- at the very least not until the conference commissioners decide the new playoff format. Should the ACC membership change, though, it’s not going to be just because of a new bowl game. It’s going to be because of the ACC’s 2-13 record in BCS bowls. It’s going to be because Florida State hasn’t won the league title since 2005 and because Miami has never even played for it.
The Champions Bowl will not “freeze out” the ACC. You can’t be kicked out of a club you weren’t a member of to begin with.
Let’s wait to see how the new playoff format unfolds before we determine the ACC’s place in it. Odds are the pressure will still be there for the conference to produce one of the top four or five teams in the country. Odds are the conference will still be looking up at the Big 12, SEC, Pac-12 and Big Ten more often than not.
Despite all of the speculation, some things never change.