The U is in a lot of trouble. By now all of you should know why, but if you don’t, read Yahoo! Sports’ 11-month investigative report about how Nevin Schapiro, a prominent booster and Ponzi Scheme guru, gave illicit benefits to at least 72 players on the football and basketball teams between 2002 and 2010, including 10 on the current Miami roster.
The claims are shocking, revolting and rivals the infamous SMU scandal in the 1980s, one that resulted in the equally infamous “Death Penalty”, which entailed the Mustangs losing their football program for the entirety of 1987 and allowed them to only play seven road games in 1988.
It crippled the program up until 2009, when they finally got back to a bowl and defeated Nevada. It was also the beginning of the end for the Southwest Conference, which collapsed in 1996.
But regardless of the actual punishment, Miami has irreparably damaged the ACC. Had UNC and Georgia Tech not committed major violations in the past year, maybe this could be spun as a single renegade program acting selfishly but that is not the case.
The ACC is now on equal footing with the SEC in the way that it cheats, except the ACC can’t win the football games.
Given all of these factors, the immediate and long-term future of the ACC looks bleak. Can the admittedly weak football conference stay together following these well documented allegations?
The most likely answer is no. Maybe if the SEC wasn’t looking to expand that answer would be different but Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech all on the conference expansion table to balance out the eventual addition of Texas A&M.
It won’t happen quickly as demonstrated by the SMU scandal but it will eventually happen. Even if Miami doesn't receive the death penalty, speculation will run amok among ACC athletic directors, and you can bet that every director in the conference has run through some type of scenario that calls for their school to leave the conference.
This already has the expansion-ready SEC and quietly lurking Big Ten licking their chops over potential targets. Commissioner John Swofford is too reactive, not proactive, to do the best thing for the conference and kick Miami out and add Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Connecticut or Rutgers, universities with strong academics within the geographical footprint of the ACC.
It’s hard to imagine how any of the above schools bring more to the table in that regard. They would be making a lot more money from the ACC’s television deal—$1.86 billion as opposed to a measly $200 million—but that deal expires in 2013 and it stands to reason they will be getting a lot more money in the near future.
The addition of TCU also provides more current stability to the league than the ACC has and defining 12 football teams will only add to that success, even if they are forced to get the schools from C-USA or the FCS.
The Big East’s expansion should take place before a new deal is reached and if they are smart, unlike the Mountain West, will offer schools like Boston College and Maryland a one-time opportunity to join their conference or risk not being in a “Big Six” conference.
Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe was able to miraculously, if only for a few years, save his conference with the Pac-12, SEC and, to a certain extent, the Big Ten all vying for teams.
Given the ACC’s weaker profile and the SEC, Big Ten and possibly the Big East all trying to steal teams, it’s hard to not see the ACC becoming a thing of the past in the next decade.
The best possible scenario is that the ACC becomes the worst super conference ever created. Should the SEC take Missouri, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, the Big 12 would collapse and it would be open season for the Big Ten, Pac-12 and an already weaker ACC to play “keeping up with the Joneses”.
The ACC would be forced to raid the Big East, or vice versa, in order to remain somewhat relevant but the best teams would already be gone. West Virginia is not in the same ballpark as Texas and neither is Pitt, Syracuse or any other possible ACC target.
And all of that is contingent on the Big Ten not taking ACC teams like Maryland, Virginia Tech or Boston College.
The moral of this story is get the cheaters out of your conference before it is too late. It may not happen this year or even next but the conference expansion/replacement dominoes will fall and the ACC will either get the short end of the stick or not get a stick at all.
For more up-to-date news and opinions on Virginia Tech, the ACC and national college sports, follow me on Twitter @VTCaceClosed.