Conference Expansion: Saving the ACC—How the ACC Can Be the Realignment Winner

Randall CooperContributor ISeptember 14, 2011

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 3:  Fans sing 'The Eyes of Texas' before the start of the NCAA game between the Texas Longhorns and the Rice Owls on September 3, 2011 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

Until recently, the general consensus was that the ACC, even if it survived, would come out as a loser when the realignment dust settles.

But that may not be the case.

A few weeks ago, I started thinking about the possibility of Texas joining the ACC.  It was a far-fetched idea.  And I realized that. 

But my thinking was that, if the Big 12 were to implode, the ACC might be Texas’ only option, if it intended to keep its beloved Longhorn Network.   ESPN is both the owner and operator of LHN and the exclusive holder of ACC television rights.  So, theoretically an agreement can be reached where Texas could keep its LHN and also share in league television revenue.

When I mentioned the idea to Kristi Dosh (@sportsbizzmiss), she dismissed it.  Not a chance, she said.

I disagreed, and today Dosh has changed her tune

Why?  Because Texas-to-the-ACC is gaining steam. 

And’s Chip Brown has outlined why going east may be Texas’ top option

It has always been my opinion that the ACC should approach expansion with the goal of raising its football profile, increasing visibility and adding brand-name programs.  Texas does all of that for the ACC.

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 03:  Michael Floyd #3 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs after a catch against the University of South Florida Bulls at Notre Dame Stadium on September 3, 2011 in South Bend, Indiana. South Florida defeated Notre Dame 23-20.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

And if the ACC really wants to be the winner of expansion, it shouldn’t stop at Texas.

Notre Dame should also be in the ACC’s crosshairs.  Like the Longhorns, the Irish add real value to the ACC.

To be sure, adding Texas and Notre Dame and keeping Florida State—no small feat—would give the ACC three of the biggest brands in all of college football.  And its renegotiated television deal might very well rival the SEC’s—or even the Pac-12’s.

In addition, Texas and Notre Dame boast stellar academics, which is a critical expansion criteria for the ACC. 

U.S. News released its 2012 rankings of the Best Colleges.  In terms of average rank for its member institutions, for the sixth time in the last seven years, the ACC has led all BCS conferences.  Duke enjoys the league’s highest ranking at tenth and is joined in the Top 25 by Virginia (25) and Wake Forest (25).

In the Top 40 are North Carolina (29), Boston College (31), Georgia Tech (36) and Miami (38). Maryland ranked 55th, followed by Clemson (68), Virginia Tech (71) and Florida State and NC State tied at 101.

Texas (45) and Notre Dame (19) would fit in quite nicely.

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 11: The Navy Midshipmen march onto the field before the game against the Army Black Knights on December 11, 2010 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Hunter Martin/Getty Images

And if the ACC intends to morph itself into a superconference, UConn (58), Pitt (58), SMU (62), Syracuse (62), Rutgers (68) and Baylor (75) are potential candidates.  Even Army and Navy, which are tied at 14th among National Liberal Arts colleges, might have an argument to join the league.

Imagine an ACC divided into North and South divisions where Florida State and Texas or Notre Dame and Texas or Notre Dame and Florida State meet in the ACC Championship.

Imagine the Army-Navy game being an ACC conference game held on Thanksgiving Day before ACC-newcomer Texas takes on its bitter rival and SEC-newcomer Texas A&M.  All the pageantry, all the tradition—talk about visibility!

Sure, it may seem far-fetched to think of Texas and Notre Dame—and perhaps Syracuse or SMU or Navy or Army—in the ACC.

But if we have learned anything over the last year, it is that, when it comes to conference realignment, nothing is far-fetched.