Expansion is all the rage, and while the Big 12 is still not sold on growing its league back to 12 teams, there are, at least in reports, multiple teams that are looking to have their names considered.
Louisville, of the Big East, is exploring options. Florida State is, but they're not, but they already have been eying the Big 12. Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech have been mentioned by the "take it with a grain of salt" folks at OrangeBloods.com ($$). TCU's athletic director spilled the beans, sort of confirming the idea that schools were reaching out to the league.
To me, the most interesting of these schools that have rumors swirling is Georgia Tech. On their own, the Yellow Jackets are an intriguing study as a football program. Rich history in four national titles, 16 conference championships, the 222-0 win over Cumberland in epic fashion and the ties to one of the game's great names, John Heisman.
The 40 bowl games to their credit is a top-15 number in the college football world—more than Florida, Arkansas, Auburn, Texas A&M, Wisconsin and plenty of other programs.
However, to go with all of that success is a more recent view of the Jackets. They are a team that has not won a bowl game since 2004's beating of Syracuse in the Champs Sports Bowl. A team with just one conference title since their 1990 national championship. A team that, both nationally and regionally, has seen its luster fade.
The Jackets that we see today are merely a shell, as a program, of the team that won a title two decades ago.
That said, we all know conference expansion is not merely about success as a program. Texas A&M has not been a tremendous bastion of football greatness and the SEC still snatched them up. Colorado, simply put, was God-awful at the time the Pac-12 chose the Buffaloes as one of their newest members.
Boise State, piling up wins like nobody's business, could not get an invite from the Big 12 or Pac-12, two leagues that, at least geographically, could have better housed the Broncos than the Big East.
Some folks see the Jackets as a great push for the Big 12. They are, after all, in Atlanta, the nation's eighth-largest television marketplace and an easy place to get a flight into for all the travel associated with collegiate athletics. Perhaps that is some of the allure with the Yellow Jackets when it comes to considering them.
Absolutely the ease of travel idea is correct. Getting to Atlanta from anywhere in the USA is a relatively easy task. However, the idea about Atlanta as a media market carried by Georgia Tech and the benefit of adding the Jackets is one that a lot of people whiff on. The Jackets don't carry Atlanta.
The ATL loves college football, but make no mistake about it, it is an SEC town. The way it embraces the SEC title game and loves the Georgia Bulldogs makes that point pretty clear.
Chasing a media market by grabbing a team in the area is not the best move. Ask the ACC how that worked out with Boston College. While the Jackets have more of a foothold in the Atlanta market than the Eagles, the same principles apply: You have to know what a team is worth in their market before you assume it will carry the area for you.
Even in great years, Boston College has very little "real" value in the Boston Market. Georgia Tech carries more cache with an Atlanta population that loves college football, but that real value must still be considered.
If the Big 12 is looking to expand, it is clear that Florida State, save for Notre Dame, is the big fish out there swimming. The traveling partner for the Seminoles has to be up for grabs, and at first blush, the Yellow Jackets seem to be quite appealing, at least off the field.
Hopefully Bob Bowlsby won't fall into the trap—the allure of the Atlanta market may seem too good to pass up; it is not. Opt for the culture and on-field success, the viewers will come organically. As the ACC realized with Boston College, just having a team in the major market does not guarantee a true bump.