It’s time for Conference Armageddon, update #2! Lots of fun rumors and innuendo floating around out there. This is like trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle at the bottom of a swimming pool. So let’s dive right in:
- Louisville made the big waves earlier this week, when they announced a jump from the shrinking Big East to the ACC. This completes a long courtship period for Louisville, which seemed destined for the Big 12 through most of the last cycle of rearranging. Louisville enters the ACC at quite a financial advantage, as their budget numbers place them in the top three of all athletic departments in that conference. Cardinals AD Tom Jurich seemed very happy with the move, and it’s understandable, as exiting the burning house of the Big East for any better situation is preferable to staying inside. However, I’m not sure Jurich needed to set the bridge on fire between Louisville and the Big 12, and that’s exactly what he did, saying (and I’m paraphrasing a bit) that Louisville’s first choice has always been the ACC. Can’t imagine that will sit well with the Big 12 folks. Will that matter? Well…
- The rumors for the early part of the week focused on Virginia going to the Big Ten. Virginia AD Craig Littlepage and the Virginia president both came out and made statements that there were no ongoing talks with the Big Ten. Case closed? Well, bear with us for a minute.
- UConn has unfortunately been left twisting in the wind by this process. Word out of the ACC (through sources, of course) indicated that the conference wanted Louisville more, felt that the Cardinals were a more attractive fit, and believed that UConn had nowhere else to go, so they could always be added later. The same sources indicated that the basketball schools (Tobacco Road, more or less) all spoke up in favor of UConn but were out-voiced.
- Florida State has emerged as the football linchpin in the ACC. The selection of Louisville has been widely interpreted as a way to placate the Seminole athletic department…and there have been a lot of indications that it didn’t work. As we mentioned in the last Conference Armageddon update, FSU has been talked about as a potential candidate for a Big 12 move. Those rumors haven’t gone away, and if anything they have increased at the expense of the FSU-to-the-SEC rumors.
- The big news entering Friday was that Georgia Tech had supposedly decided to apply for Big Ten admission, and would be announcing their departure from the ACC soon. This was immediately followed up by…the weakest quasi-denial I think I’ve seen in this whole thing. The athletic director for Georgia Tech basically just said he was unaware of any conference movement taking place, and the president’s office was unavailable for comment.
- This was then topped by the news on Friday night out of Washington DC’s WUSA-TV reporter Kevin Jones, who stated on Twitter that Georgia Tech AND Virginia would be announcing their decision to leave the ACC for the Big Ten by Monday. Jones was questioned about the report, but claimed that his source was too credible to not run with the story.
So that leaves us with a *slightly* clearer situation than we had on Monday. We know that the ACC is going to fight for survival — which means, logically, that North Carolina isn’t going anywhere. Or at least, not anywhere easily. We also know that the Big Ten is not slowing down — they are pressing on towards some unknown goal. Is that a particular number of teams? The neutering of the ACC? Messing with Notre Dame? We’re still figuring that one out.
As a result of the various reports, rumors, and speculations that I’ve read, and using my own ideas on what’s going on and the motivations behind them, here’s a possible scenario moving forward. These items are listed in order of confidence, from “sun coming up tomorrow”-level confidence to “winning powerball ticket”-level confidence.
- Georgia Tech and Virginia do indeed end up announcing on Monday (or earlier) that they are bound for the Big Ten, bringing the conference up to 16 teams.
- The ACC panics, and attempts to add UConn and Cincinnati…but only Cincinnati agrees, strangely.
- Florida State announces it is departing with Miami for the Big 12.
- Clemson immediately announces it is also departing for the Big 12.
- North Carolina, seeing the writing on the wall, reluctantly announces it is leaving for the Big Ten.
- The SEC immediately announces that Virginia Tech and NC State are joining their conference.
- The Big Ten subsequently announces it is bringing in three additional teams. Connecticut, Syracuse…and Kansas. This increases the Big Ten to 20 teams.
Now, at that point, the ACC has two options. The remaining teams in that scenario would be Louisville, Pittsburgh, Duke, Wake Forest, Cincinnati, and Boston College. The only way they survive as a football conference is to grab South Florida and Temple…but at that point, I don’t see Duke or Wake Forest trying to survive in a football-oriented conference when neither school really focuses on that sport. It would make far more sense for those two schools to flee to a new basketball-only conference that rises out of the ashes of the Big East.
If that occurs, then you likely see the Big 12 (which has 11 teams in the above scenario) agree to add Louisville, Pitt, Cincinnati, Boston College, and South Florida. That would give the Big 12 sixteen teams, including three in Florida, one in the northeast, and four in the rust belt (if you include West Virginia).
And at that point, I really think you see the Pac 12 adding Notre Dame and BYU to complete armageddon. An appropriate pair of teams for that task, I must add.