5 Schools the ACC Should Target If Florida State and Clemson Leave
It is purely speculation at this point, but after reports that Texas A&M will join the SEC, ACC historic programs Florida State and Clemson have been linked to joining the current football power conference.
If true, this would deliver a huge blow to a conference that in 2004 thought it was creating a football juggernaut when it added Miami, Virginia Tech and then added Boston College a year later.
That plan has obviously failed, and now, two of the biggest football programs of the conference are poised to leave and join the real football juggernaut.
This could be jumping the gun a little bit, but assuming the ACC does lose those two teams, it will certainly look to add at least two teams to keep its numbers and possibly expand further.
Here are five teams that the ACC should talk with about realignment.
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If the ACC needs a team, ECU should be the first to get a call.
For the last five seasons the Pirates have made a name for themselves as an emerging football program in Conference USA. Skip Holtz may be gone, but the program's five consecutive bowl appearances is something that shouldn't be taken lightly, and it has already proven it can beat the conference's best by beating the Hokies in 2008.
The Hokies aren't the only team that plays ECU on a yearly basis either. UNC and NC State are also engaged in yearly rivalries with ECU, with the Pirates having beaten the Wolfpack six of the last 10 times the programs have met.
Is ECU at the level of most ACC schools? No. But by making the leap to the ACC, it would be an easier sell for ECU in recruiting, and the switch in leagues could speed up the growth of an already exciting program.
It already has several potential rivalries, and given the opportunity, the Pirates could be a valuable asset to a league that needs solid football programs.
West Virginia Mountaineers
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If the ACC could steal West Virginia from fellow-BCS conference the Big East, it would be a huge pickup for many reasons.
For starters, West Virginia football has been one of the only positives in a Big East conference that has been considered the worst of the BCS AQs. The Mountaineers have five conference titles in the last eight years and would instantly become a top program in the ACC with the likes of Miami and Virginia Tech.
Speaking of Virginia Tech, the Mountaineers move would re-spark a hated rivalry between WVU and the Hokies that Tech AD Jim Weaver swore he would never let continue because of the way Mountaineer fans abused Tech fans in their final game before the Hokies moved to the ACC.
For decades, that rivalry was a very strong one and even had the beautiful Black Diamond Trophy for bragging rights.
Finally, WVU would be perfect for the ACC because of its success in basketball, which is what the ACC has been known for.
In the '90s and early '00s the ACC was a basketball powerhouse with perennial contenders in Maryland, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, UNC and of course, Duke.
With the exception on UNC and Duke, all of those programs have died down a little, and adding a team that has made it to the Sweet 16 three of the past four years would help improve the ACC's image in basketball.
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As you can tell by the picture, this addition isn't for football but instead for basketball.
If the ACC loses Florida State and Clemson, the conference could give up on being a "football conference" and follow the Big East's model of when they added Cincinnati, Louisville, Marquette and USF to bolster the conference's basketball.
Memphis has lost a lot of its pizazz since John Calipari left, but the team is still a well-known program, and if it joins the ACC now, Memphis could get itself back in national contention.
In three or four years, the opportunity could be gone if people forget about the program's past success. However, their success from '04-'09 is still fresh in people's memories and could catapult them to a premiere conference.
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Cincinnati just moved to the Big East in 2005, but that might be exactly why they are perfect to move again.
Unlike Syracuse, UConn, Pittsburgh and Georgetown, Cincinnati doesn't have huge rivalries in the conference that would prevent them from leaving.
The Bearcats have improving programs in both basketball and football, but they haven't been good enough to create tension with the elite basketball programs, and there aren't big rivalries in football because most of the Big East doesn't care about it.
Meanwhile, a move to the ACC would let it compete in basketball and football and create rivalries in both, as both sports garner a lot of attention in the conference.
The move would also let the ACC add the state of Ohio to its sphere of influence, which is always a good thing for revenue.
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The Bulls' football program might be new, but in the 10 years it has been in the FBS, it has proven it can compete with anyone.
It has made a bowl game in all six seasons since joining the Big East in 2005 (4-2 in those bowl games) and has won at least eight games in each of the last five.
Furthermore, the Bulls play in Raymond James Stadium, the 41,000-plus stadium of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that has hosted several ACC Championship games, and they just opened up an $18 million on-campus facility that will almost certainly boost recruiting.
Finally, USF would give the ACC a second team in Florida (again, assuming that Florida State is leaving), which is a huge state to have a presence in when talking college sports in general.
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Pittsburgh: The Panthers move into the ACC discussion because the ACC will look to poach any good football program. If West Virginia leaves, Pitt could think long and hard about moving with them, but it would still be unlikely.
The Panthers have evolved into a top-tier basketball program, meaning they are starting to enjoy the spoils of playing Big East basketball. Pitt would see a boost in its football by making the move, but I don't think it would take that risk.
Villanova: Would make sense, especially for lacrosse, where the Wildcats are an emerging program. The basketball team wouldn't be challenged as much, but the ACC still is big into basketball.
The biggest issue is that while they are a top program in the FCS, the ACC is a huge step up from that. If Villanova follows USF's path and quickly becomes a big time football team, then maybe the talks can resume with the ACC but not now.
Kansas: Of all of the teams named, this is the long-long-long shot. It sounds crazy, but bear with me for a second.
If the teams in the Big 12 start to panic because they see Texas A&M and Missouri leaving and think Texas will eventually go independent, the whole conference could dissolve quickly and leave teams in the middle of the country scrambling.
Kansas has a decent football program (four bowl appearances since '03, including an Orange Bowl win over VT in '07), but the real reason it could happen is the idea of putting basketball super-powers Duke, UNC and Kansas in the same conference.