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STEVE DeSHAZO: Karma returns to bite ACC
KARMA CAN BE—to use a term popular in family newspapers—a rascal.
Let’s put aside (for now) Maryland’s dubious decision to bolt the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Big Ten in 2014, when that league really should rename itself the Big 14.
No, today is dedicated to examining just how well the ACC’s decision to start this whole conference game of musical chairs is working out.
(Spoiler alert: not so well.)
You’ll remember that it was nearly a decade ago that ACC commissioner John Swofford and his posse of money-hungry school presidents began raiding the Big East. It began with Miami and (grudgingly, at first) Virginia Tech in 2004, and Boston College a year later. Next summer, Pittsburgh and Syracuse will officially defect.
This collegiate Manifest Destiny was done in the name of money (and its primary vehicle, football). Swofford wanted a profitable conference championship game like the ones the Southeastern Conference and Big 12 were staging, and he needed a dozen football-playing schools to do it.
So the ACC began using the Big East as its farm system, plucking up the highest-profile schools with promises of bigger paychecks from network TV revenues.
The Big East, which hung its hat on basketball (as the ACC once did), then began raiding other leagues. It lured Louisville, Marquette and Cincinnati, among others.
The shifts didn’t stop there. Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big Ten. Texas A&M and Missouri are now in the SEC, West Virginia in the Big 12 and Colorado in the Pac 12.
And Maryland’s moving to the Big Ten, along with Rutgers, giving that traditionally Midwestern-centric league’s cable network footholds in two major Eastern media markets (New York and D.C.).
The most interesting part of the Terps’ move is the gag order Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney reportedly placed on Maryland’s board of regents, forbidding them to talk about the proposal until it was a done deal. No one from Maryland even alerted the ACC office that talks were serious until after the fact.
But the ACC has no right to complain, not after starting this whole process. And the upshot is that the league is worse off (competitively, if not financially) than when it toppled the first domino.
Since the BCS was born in 1998, the ACC has a 2–12 record in BCS bowl games. Swofford’s grand experiment has resulted in exactly one at-large bid to a BCS bowl—Virginia Tech’s surprise trip to the Sugar Bowl last year.
The league was in position for a second at-large bid this year—until Saturday. That’s when Florida State and Clemson each lost to an in-state rival (Florida and South Carolina, respectively).
And Georgia Tech, which will represent the ACC’s dubious Coastal Division in this Saturday’s title game, was blasted by Georgia 42–10. It would serve the ACC right if the Yellow Jackets surprised Florida State in Charlotte and grabbed the league’s automatic Orange Bowl bid with a 7–6 record.
The only reason Georgia Tech is in the final is that Miami and North Carolina are serving self-imposed postseason bans because of scandals. Virginia, Maryland, Wake Forest and Boston College didn’t even qualify for bowl bids, which means the ACC won’t be able to fill two of its eight negotiated bowl berths. (It would have been three if Virginia had beaten Virginia Tech on Saturday.)
And now, the ACC has to hold Maryland to the $50 million exit fee school presidents enacted earlier this year. If the league doesn’t force the cash-strapped Terps to pony up the full amount, expect Florida State and Clemson to seriously look elsewhere.
Even Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver—who loves his school’s spot in the ACC—caused a minor uproar last week when he answered a question about the SEC’s possible interest in the Hokies with a non-committal answer.
Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski was one of the early critics of the ACC’s power grab. In the aftermath of Maryland’s announcement last week, he told a radio interviewer that the league is “vulnerable right now.”
It has been that way for a while.
Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443