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Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Debate: What happens to ACC, Big East?

By Heather Dinich and Andrea Adelson

As BCS commissioners and officials prepare to hash out college football's playoff system this month, the ACC and Big East face the most uncertainty.

Speculation has run rampant regarding possible conference realignments, and it's not likely to stop until the playoff format has been decided. ACC blogger Heather Dinich and Big East blogger Andrea Adelson discuss the futures of both conferences.

So Heather, it seems the ACC is feeling a little like the Big East these days -- worried about getting raided. How must it feel to be on the other side -- to fear getting poached, after all the poaching the ACC has done to its neighbors up north over the last 10 years. A cloud of doom and gloom seems to be hanging over both the two conferences we cover. Will they survive the next round of expansion? Will they be squeezed out by the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12? I am not buying into the hysteria right now. What are you buying?

HD: I’m buying a new GPS system to find my way through the state of Texas, AA. Never been. Don’t know if I should fly into Dallas or Houston, but I was thinking of calling FSU Board of Trustees chairman Andy Haggard, who appears so eager to get to Big 12 country he may as well give the Longhorns his resume. Look, the ACC isn’t worried about anyone getting poached. Nobody has $20 million to give to Greensboro to leave the ACC, and right now, no offers are on the table. I believe they call it unrequited love. If there’s anything ACC officials should be worried about, it’s that both Clemson and Florida State have said publicly that they would even entertain the notion of leaving the conference. I understand that each school has to look out for its own interests, I’m just not convinced that any school in the ACC would fare better in another conference. So far, this has all been a lot of talk and speculation that all snowballed from Haggard's ill-informed comments a month ago. Now, with that all being said, who knows what the future holds or what officials in any conference are saying behind closed doors? All I know is the ACC shouldn’t be nearly as concerned as the Big East. What does the future hold for those guys? Is there any future at all?

AA: You might want to ask West Virginia about who helped foot its $20 million tab for leaving the Big East. Cough, cough, Big 12. These days, all it takes is one snowball to be headed downhill to set dominoes in motion. Board of Trustees are pretty powerful entities. You have one member at a pretty powerful football program mouth off, and all of a sudden an idea is planted and folks in Texas are starting to wonder, "Should we do this?" Maybe not today, but perhaps down the road. That has repercussions for your conference and the Big East. Because I can all but guarantee Louisville will be fighting some folks for a chance to get into the Big 12 after it narrowly lost out to West Virginia last year. And if the ACC needs some fillers, hello UConn and Rutgers. Now back to your question.

If the Big East as it is currently configured can stay together, the future looks just fine. Let me drop some knowledge here. Since 2005, the Big East has had three teams finish the season with just one loss. Two of them -- Cincinnati and Louisville -- are remaining members. Let's add in future members, just for fun. That would give the Big East six more (Boise State 5, Houston 1). By comparison, the ACC has had zero teams finish with just one loss in the same time frame. Fancy stats, right? But nobody can guarantee the future configuration of the league, not with so much uncertainty in the landscape. The league *should* be able to survive, even if it loses members. But if it suffers heavy losses like Louisville and UConn, there is no doubt there will be growing sentiment for a split between hoops and football. There already is, and whatever materializes out of this future TV deal may not be enough. That is why a growing chorus of Big East fans have wondered whether a super-conglomeration between the Big East and ACC, an alliance if you will, makes sense. Your thoughts?

HD: My thoughts are that sounds like a watered-down version of flat diet soda. Bleh. Fans want calories at their tailgates, and more matchups against UConn and Rutgers aren’t gonna do it. It seems like every season in the nonconference schedule we get ACC-Big East matchups, and none of them get the pulse moving. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Louisville, South Florida, Connecticut and even West Virginia -- all on the schedule this year. The ACC won’t do itself any favors by partnering with the Big East. It needs to beef up its bowl alliances and find more revenue, and it’s not going to find that in Connecticut. If the ACC is going to grow, it needs to look to South Bend, Ind. It needs a bowl partner like the Big Ten or SEC. What everyone needs to do right now is brace themselves and hang on tight, because there is change coming, but the Big East isn’t the life preserver the ACC should be clinging to. It’s sinking. Once conference officials decide how to move forward with a playoff, there will undoubtedly be another round of rumors, politicking and jockeying for power. The ACC and Big East commissioners can either put their conferences in position to thrive in the future, or watch from the sidelines. We should know more soon after the next round of BCS meetings June 13 and June 20. What are you hoping to learn from those meetings that will affect the Big East?

AA: Well it's easy for the ACC to talk a big game after essentially destroying the fabric of the Big East. You right there mentioned Pitt as a team that doesn't get pulses racing. So the addition of the Panthers to the ACC helps how? The ACC is not getting an alliance with another league for a BCS bowl game. Everybody else is partnered up. But hey, at least the ACC has a BCS tie-in, right? I still think a playoff benefits the ACC and Big East, but my big fear out of the meetings is that some sort of strength of schedule component will be added back into the calculations to determine the Top 4. Then the ACC AND Big East may very well get left out. I can see Jim Delany in his mad scientist's lab crafting a way for one-loss teams from the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 to finish higher than undefeated teams from the ACC and Big East. As it stands now, one-loss teams from the leagues we cover do not stand much of a shot at a title game. Whether you want to believe it or not, the ACC may end up in the same boat as the Big East. OK now it sounds like I'm a hysterical Chicken Little.

HD: First, the addition of Pitt and Syracuse -- moreso Pitt -- will help the ACC. John Swofford wouldn’t have made that move if it weren’t financially beneficial, among other reasons. I’m just saying that the ACC can stop there. Yes, the ACC still has its Orange Bowl tie-in, but who knows what kind of changes will happen to the current bowl structure after these BCS meetings? I think it will open the door for a lot of change and a lot of options for the ACC. I don’t think the league should rule out any kind of partnerships just because the Big 12 and SEC have their game and the Pac-12 and Big Ten have theirs. What about Notre Dame? A playoff DOES benefit both conferences. Right away you’ve got more opportunities, as the top four teams now have a chance instead of the top 2. If strength of schedule is included, you’re right -- both leagues could be in trouble, but everyone could be in trouble depending on how the teams are selected and who is doing the picking and choosing. Personally, I like the idea of rewarding conference champions. Then teams won’t be afraid to schedule teams like Alabama and LSU in the preseason for fear of it hurting their chances at the national title. And if the ACC champ were to be rewarded with a shot at the national title, why would Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech or any other team for that matter want to leave? I don’t think you’re being too much like Chicken Little. The Big East needs to duck. I’m not ready, though, to hit the panic button for the ACC.