A Big 12-ACC Alliance Absolutely Doesn't Work for College Football
Bob Bowlsby, the commissioner of the Big 12, is looking for a dance partner for his league, as reported by Kirk Bohls from the Austin American-Statesman. While two other unspecified conferences are on the table, it is the ACC that seems to be the clear leader at this stage in the process.
Unfortunately for fans who want this happen, there's no point in putting too much stock in this moving forward. It's just not something that is going to work in the current landscape of the collegiate athletic world. We've already seen the Pac-12 and Big Ten alliance fall apart before it ever had a chance to start, and this Big 12-ACC venture will be no different.
In theory it would be a blessing to fans. They'd get another guaranteed game against a big-time draw from a BCS conference—Florida State-Texas and Clemson-Oklahoma and the like. Those are games that would get fans pumped up and help fill up stadiums. In the current climate of full stands being hard to come by, one would think that would be a deciding factor.
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Except that is not the only matrix by which this decision shall be made. Full stadiums are nice; flexibility in scheduling is better. The ACC is a league that already dropped its nine-game conference schedule plan due to the addition of Notre Dame to the conference slate.
The Fighting Irish are not going anywhere. Florida State, Clemson and Georgia are not about to drop their in-state rivalries, and overall flexibility is not going to be compromised.
The ACC lets its members pick their own nonconference games and then works around those dates to help teams maximize what they do outside of the league. A partnership with the Big 12 would dry up a lot of open dates in the league and really stack the deck for the conference's members.
A team like Florida State, with eight ACC games plus Florida on the docket, has to be smart in its future scheduling. It cannot control when it ends up with Notre Dame on the schedule, but it can oppose the addition of a Big 12 team before it happens. A Big 12-ACC alliance would put Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech in the crosshairs of 11 BCS-caliber opponents with just one game of flexibility.
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That is not something any team in college football is signing up to undertake.
It is not just the schools with in-state rivals to play that will push back at the idea of the partnership. North Carolina is set to play Ohio State in 2017. Adding another major date with the Big 12 would put the high-profile Buckeyes date in jeopardy.
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The same goes for Virginia Tech in this regard. The Hokies have Alabama (2013), Ohio State (2014, 2015) and Wisconsin (2016, 2017) on their schedule already. Throw in their dates with East Carolina in the future, and being locked into a game with the Big 12 just will not serve the Hokies well from a flexibility standpoint.
So, while it works for fans and would get their enthusiasm up, they are not the folks making the hard decisions about scheduling. The four-team playoff is on the horizon, and while it's been said that "strength of scheduling matters," how much it will matter to the selection committee remains to be seen. Wins are the currency that college football trades in, and overstocking a schedule is not the way to grow a portfolio.
Flexibility and getting wins are what the ACC both wants and needs. The teams that want to schedule a Big 12 game are free to do just that, while the other ACC members can enjoy their dates with the Big Ten, SEC, Big East or Pac-12. Rooting for the alliance makes sense for fans, but ultimately do not expect teams to compromise their scheduling freedoms to make it come to fruition.
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