Thursday, November 29, 2012

Let's all reconfigure awkwardly

It took the ACC little time to find a replacement for (and debatably an upgrade to) Maryland:
Louisville will officially join the Atlantic Coast Conference, becoming the seventh former Big East school to leave for the ACC.

The ACC's presidents and chancellors voted Wednesday morning to add the Cardinals in place of Maryland, which will leave for the Big Ten in 2014. Louisville also is expected to join the ACC in 2014.
There was an assumption amid all of last year's ridiculousness that UConn was next on the ACC's hypothetical-but-not-hypothetical list given the conference's takeover of the Big East's Northeast Division (not a real thing). Apparently not; the thing about Louisville is that the football has actually been good for more than a year out of the last decade, and for a conference that's somewhat desperate to retain its relevance in the thing that makes money, that mattered more than anything else.

More from the ESPN story:
The ACC felt Louisville was the best choice because of its "aggressive approach" to success, including a commitment to "marquee athletics programs," a source told ESPN.
In other words, the ACC taking Louisville was the exact opposite of the Big Ten taking Maryland. The market size (a meh 50th nationally) and academics (Louisville is one notch above a juco) meant nothing; the football and basketball meant everything. Really, as long as Louisville can continue being at least pretty good in both sports (not a certainty given Charlie Strong's relatively tenuous status), the ACC will benefit from the general increase in meaningful games and accompanying interest. That's a strategy I'm entirely on board with given that it appears to be a long-term brand-strengthening one rather than an OMG-ALL-OF-THE-MONEY one.

That said, the ACC doesn't really have the leverage to get a school that offers any significant financial upgrade, hence the expansion possibilities being UConn and Louisville (and possibly Cincinnati). Given the choice between Pitt/Syracuse/Boston College/Louisville and Penn State/Nebraska/Rutgers/Maryland, the ACC probably would've taken the latter. Probably. At least it's close enough that the ACC is still a viable conference, which along with the massive buyout should mitigate the vulturing going forward.

The Big East can't really say the same because it is, at this point, The New Conference USA:
Tulane joined the Big East in all sports on Tuesday, becoming the latest addition to the rapidly rebuilding conference, with East Carolina also heading to the Big East as a football-only member. Both schools will join the league in 2014.
Guh. Remember when the Big East had Miami and Virginia Tech and Pitt and so on and so forth and was actually relevant? Yeah. Not so much anymore.

I mean ... Tulane? At least East Carolina has had a decent football program recently; I can't imagine that Tulane really has much pull in the New Orleans market, and there isn't even a Big East Network that would make New Orleans valuable in the way New York City is obviously valuable to the Big Ten. A says-it-all tweet from Brett McMurphy:
Tulane's last bowl game 2002; last NCAA trip 1995; this year's home football actual attendance vs. SMU 2,119
Again: guh.

As of 2015, the Big East will be comprised of the following: UConn, Cincinnati, South Florida, Boise State, Temple, Navy, San Diego State, Central Florida, SMU, Memphis, Houston, East Carolina and Tulane. Nine of those schools were formerly in Conference USA, FWIW, and none of the 15 other than Boise State has been relevant, like, ever.

And since the Big East is The New Conference USA (ESCAPE IF YOU CAN EXCEPT YOU CAN'T BECAUSE NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOU UNTIL THEY GET DESPERATE), that means Conference USA is The New WAC Belt:
Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee State are leaving the Sun Belt Conference for Conference USA. An announcement was made by the conference Thursday.

FAU and Middle Tennessee will join Conference USA in July 2014. Conference USA added the schools to replace Tulane and East Carolina, which announced Tuesday they were joining the Big East.
There are also various reports out there that C-USA will be adding Western Kentucky from the Sun Belt and New Mexico State from nowhere (since New Mexico State is otherwise headed for the horrifying ether of independence upon the death of the WAC). Whatever. This warrants no real analysis since Conference USA is Conference USA.

What matters is that as the five legit conferences get larger/marginally better by skimming off the top of the no-longer-legit conferences, those conferences are replacing their tops by adding to their bottoms. In other words, the chasm between Real Football and Not Real Football is getting larger.

Here's somebody saying basically what everybody's thinking:
“I think, effectively, there are about four major football conferences right now,” University of Georgia president Michael Adams said. Adams said the four included the SEC, but he declined to say what the other major conferences were.
There's no real mystery about which four qualify as "major," although as mentioned above, the ACC should be able to hang around as a slightly-lesser-but-still-viable conference (at least as long as Florida State sticks around and Notre Dame keeps playing ACC teams).

Will that happen? I have no idea. Neither does anybody else. But I would kinda prefer to stop having to look up which teams are in the Big East and write reactionary posts about various and mostly meaningless (except for their tradition-ruining-ness) reconfigurations.


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