When Maryland announced it was leaving the ACC for the Big Ten, it served as a wake-up call for all the “major” conferences in the country to watch for poachers.
Since adding Florida State in 1991, the ACC has always been the hunter. It took another 13 years for the ACC to go on the prowl again and it reeled in two of the biggest prizes at the time — Miami and Virginia Tech — before snagging Boston College 12 months later.
With these additions, the ACC’s footprint stretched nearly 1,500 miles. More importantly, it guaranteed the conference would always have a place at the table with the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12 and the SEC.
When conference musical chairs started again last spring, the ACC didn’t miss a beat and opened its doors to Pittsburgh and Syracuse, bringing the membership to 14.
Everything appeared right in the ACC world because while the Big 12 was losing schools to the Pac-12 and the SEC, it was standing on solid ground and looking to build on its heritage.
But that wasn’t the case.
While the ACC was out courting Pittsburgh and Syracuse, Florida State and Maryland were catching the eye of possible suitors.
Before settling on Missouri has its 14th member, rumors were floating around the SEC was very interested in having the Terrapins make the jump to the SEC. It was laughable at the time to think a charter member of the ACC would walk away and no one was surprised Maryland stayed put.
Florida State, on the other hand, was a different story. There appeared to be a real push in Tallahassee to exit the ACC and head to the Big 12. Unlike the Maryland situation where everything seemed to be more rumors and innuendo, the president of Florida State was forced to issue a statement on the issue.
The ACC’s strong foundation was beginning to crack. And with the announcement this week, it would could be crumbling as it appears anyone and everyone is fair game.
Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski even said “I think the ACC is vulnerable right now, I’m concerned about our conference.”
He’s right to be concerned because in today’s college athletic landscape it’s all about the money. The TV money. And the ACC is getting left behind.
Maryland is expected to pull in another $7 million a year in TV revenue with the move to the Big Ten. The reason for FSU’s flirtation with the Big 12? About $3 million worth of reasons.
This is why Krzyzewski knows the conference is in jeopardy of losing more members.
Traditional ACC football powers like FSU and Clemson are watching their in-state rivals — Florida and South Carolina — pull in $8 million more a year from SEC in its TV contract. In today’s economic climate, athletic directors and school presidents would be crazy not to see if there is interest to jump ship.
The saving grace for the ACC in this scenario is that the SEC would have very little interest in adding FSU or Clemson. The conference already has a presence in each of those states and expansion now isn’t about adding marquee names to your membership, it’s about expanding your TV market. This is why the Big Ten was happy to include Rutgers this week.
While the SEC may pass on FSU and Clemson, the Big 12 would be happy to add the pair and even Virginia Tech. Even if this happens, the ACC will still have plenty of schools, like Connecticut and Louisville, knocking on its door asking to be admitted.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com.