New ACC: 'Old guys vs. new guys?'

NC State coach Tom O’Brien had a brainstorm this week for conference realignment featuring new divisions in 2014: Old guys vs. new guys.

“I think that’s probably a good idea on Tom’s part,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said with a chuckle.

The thing is, O’Brien wasn’t really kidding. Can you blame him? Despite Maryland’s decision to join the Big Ten in 2014, there are still some traditionalists left in the ACC -- and many of them are head coaches. On Wednesday’s ACC coaches’ teleconference, Duke coach David Cutcliffe said he is “an ACC guy.” Grobe called himself “old school.” Mike London said he was “shocked” by Maryland’s decision.

The ACC was left to pick up the pieces following Maryland’s news, but it’s clear the rest of the conference is ready to move on, while at the same time trying to preserve the ACC’s history and tradition.

“The thing I would hope going forward, and especially because of the traditionalists and everything else, that we can’t do it next year, but certainly in 2014, that we can change our brackets and go back to the original ACC against everybody else -- the Wake Forests, Duke, Carolina, State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Virginia – the original guys,” O’Brien said. “We go back to playing each other, and it can be the old guys against the new guys. I don’t care what you call the [divisions], but I think that would be something we ought to consider if we’re going to be traditionalists and think that’s important, maybe that can happen in 2014.”

O’Brien isn’t the only coach in the ACC waving the conference banner this week. Cutcliffe, who on Wednesday agreed to a contract extension through June 30, 2019, wasn’t fazed in the slightest by Maryland’s slight.

“I heard this speculation almost a year ago, and then it died, and then it came back,” Cutcliffe said. “With the landscape of college football being what it is and going to be, I’m not going to overreact to it. I am an ACC guy and if they don’t want to be in the ACC, then I’m kinda like that about recruiting. If you don’t want to be here, I don’t want you here. I’m being honest. I’m not being ugly. I won’t let it bug me or bother me, I can promise you that.”

Grobe had a more sentimental approach to the news. He earned his undergraduate degree (B.S.) in education from Virginia in 1975 and earned a master's degree in guidance and counseling from Virginia in 1978. He played middle guard (1973) and linebacker (1974) for the Cavaliers, so his ACC ties with the Terps go back to his playing days against them.

“It’s disappointing to me, but hopefully Maryland can benefit from the move,” Grobe said. “Apparently they think that’s going to be good for them. I hope that all works out. Being old school, you get used to some of the status quo that doesn’t exist much anymore. Conferences are changing so much. With Maryland leaving, for a guy who played against them back in the early 70s, I’ve been familiar with Maryland for a long, long time, so I’m sad to see them go.”

Virginia’s London has already begun to think about how recruiting will change with his border rival moving to the Big Ten. He said his program’s “natural rivals” are Virginia Tech and North Carolina.

“Our recruiting will extend and perhaps get more heavily involved into the Northern Virginia, D.C., Maryland suburb areas, because of the choices young men will have,” London said. “We wish them well, but at the same time we want to continue to be strong in that area recruiting.”

O’Brien has been on the other side of conference realignment, as he was at Boston College when the Eagles left the Big East for the ACC. The transition year between the conferences was difficult for BC to say the least. O’Brien has told the story before about how on the day it was announced that BC would join the ACC, the Eagles had to go play at Syracuse. The team plane broke down that night, they got in at 4 a.m., had to play at noon, and the fans were throwing dollar bills at them as they left the stadium.

On Saturday, Maryland will play at North Carolina.

“I hope it isn’t the way it was when we left the Big East,” O’Brien said. “There was a lot of acrimony at that point. I think in today’s world people are changing conferences every year. It may be bad with the fans one way or another, but certainly we’ll treat Maryland with respect that they’re due as a longtime partner of the ACC.”

That’s how the “old guys” handle things in the ACC.