The ACC has moved to 15 teams and seems to be right happy about that. As the Roanoke Times reported, the league announced the official expansion move from New York City, partying in the Big Apple and welcoming not just Pitt and Syracuse, but Louisville and Notre Dame into the fold as well.
It was also a time when Commissioner John Swofford let people know that the league is—at least currently—out of the expansion business, and that is a plus for the conference. As Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press reported:
"It's not a topic of conversation for us right now," he said. "I would not anticipate it being in the future, but we'll see. I don't predict the future much anymore, I've learned better. But it's not something that's on the table for discussion in our league right now."
That's a good thing.
Not because teams shouldn't be shuffled around. Not because the expansion craze was annoying or destroyed leagues that people seemed to really like. No, it is a good thing because now, the new league has an opportunity to do what people have been waiting for the ACC to do since the 2004 expansion: grow up.
Following the move to 12-teams in 2005, the league suffered from power players like Clemson, Florida State and Miami stinking up the joint with one mediocre season after another. The conference lost almost as much cache as they lost meaningful football games. The lone "power" of the era, Virginia Tech, showed time and again on the big stage that they were just a notch below the elite teams on the landscape.
Now, Clemson and Florida State are recovering in a big way. Miami appears to be resurrecting itself under head coach, Al Golden. The middle of the league is strengthening its brand through quality hires, aggressive marketing campaigns and a push to compete on the gridiron.
Swofford, and the ACC, have a perfect storm for building toward the success they envisioned a decade ago with the first raid of the Big East. Teams are on the rise, trending up, instead of settling into a trough. The conference expansion landscape, something that plagued the ideal of stability from 2010 until now, has settled.
And, most importantly, everyone in the league has their futures tied together through the grant of rights deal that is in place.
Instead of looking over shoulders, the teams and conference can work to solidify the future. A future that needs good football, national championship contending football, to help further the cause.
A decade of troubled waters—poaching rumors, withdrawal rumors, withdrawal and poaching fact in the case of Maryland, bad football, poor conference championship locations—made it hard for the ACC to get solid footing.
Now, the league has pulled into port and it is standing on solid ground. Solid ground on which it can build a foundation for success.
No expansion is a plus, and with the teams tied together for the next 14 years, there should only be one thing on everyone's mind: going out and winning football games.
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