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Will UVA Be Left Out in the Cold Following Conference Expansion, Realignment?

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 21:  Joe Torchia #83 of the Virginia Cavaliers celebrates with teammate Jameel Sewell #10 after a touchdown against the Clemson Tigers during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 21, 2009 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IJune 11, 2010

With all this talk of superpower conferences and realignment, it has never meant so much for a university to be a football powerhouse.

Unfortunately for Virginia, that term does not currently define their program.

In truth, the Cavaliers would have been just fine if this expansion talk had come along in the 1990s, when they had winning seasons every year and were competitively taking on teams like Texas, Michigan, Miami, and Tennessee.

But now, things are looking far more bleak.  Former coach Al Groh sank the program to lows not seen in the past few decades, and his successor, Mike London, has yet to have the opportunity to repair the damage.

It's bad timing in a college football landscape that appears to be changing daily.

Let's face it, if the ACC remains then Virginia should be fine.  After all, the goal of these superpower conferences is not kicking teams out, it's finding new teams. 

While the Cavaliers may not be where they need to be currently in basketball and football, they have over 50 years of experience with the ACC and plenty of success in the non-revenue sports to make it a viable program. 

More importantly, they fit the ACC model of strong academic institutions with a variety of top athletic programs.

However, what if the SEC makes a bold move to keep up with the new power conferences?  What if they make moves at Miami, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech?

If the SEC succeeds, it could lead the Big Ten to act as they try to poach the leftovers.  Then the question becomes: What happens to Virginia?

After all, no one is desperately seeking to add a football team that won three games last season.  Charlottesville is not exactly a big market like Denver, either.

If Kansas, with one of the best basketball programs ever and a football team that has been better in recent memory than the Cavaliers, is left without a conference, then Virginia certainly could be stuck as well.

If that happens, Virginia knows who to blame.  They need only to look in the mirror.

This whole drive towards the superpower conferences has a base in the ACC's muddled expansion talks seven years ago.

As you may recall, the original three teams that ACC commissioner Swofford was hoping to poach from the Big East were Miami, Boston College, and Syracuse.

However, Virginia's governor at the time, Mark Warner, basically backed the Cavaliers into a corner and demanded that they defend Virginia Tech.  He did not want the Hokies left in the impotent Big East, and University of Virginia President John Casteen listened.

As a result, the Cavaliers put up a protest at the ACC meeting and basically said that if Virginia Tech did not replace Syracuse as one of the three teams they would vote against expansion.  Since that's exactly what North Carolina and Duke wanted, it would have killed expansion.

The other teams caved, but it created a fair amount of enemies in the process. 

Most teams were mad that they were bullied into this decision and were missing out on revenue from the New York market.  Duke and Carolina were mad that their potential ally did not kill expansion like they had hoped.

Virginia may have gotten what it asked for, but it was far more than they bargained for.

Now, Virginia is in need of some help and the ACC brethren may not be so willing to oblige. 

More importantly, do you really expect Virginia Tech to return the favor?  They're certainly not going to demand the SEC invite their archrival as well.  The governor is not going to make an impassioned plea this time around.

Just like Baylor was left off the Pac-10 invitation list, Virginia could feel a similar cold shoulder if the ACC were to fall apart.

Granted, the Big Ten could take mercy if they were rejected by other programs but the Cavaliers still remain in an unenviable position as the college football world turns.

Right now, coach London and company really have one option: win.

The Cavaliers thought they would have time to rebuild, but they need to prove to the country that they can find success on the gridiron once more.  They need to show their value outside of lacrosse, soccer, and baseball.

Otherwise, they can go join Kansas in the conference of misfit teams.

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