ACC Football 2012: It Is Time to Admit That Conference Has Backed Wrong Horse

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterMay 22, 2012

CLEMSON, SC - SEPTEMBER 24:  Tajh Boyd #10 of the Clemson Tigers runs with the ball against the Florida State Seminoles during their game at Memorial Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

In the ACC, there is a legitimate divide, or battle lines drawn if you will. North Carolina and Duke sit on one end of the spectrum while Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech fall opposite of them. That line cuts through the sand at "what's most important" for a university community to strive for greatness, in the athletic realm.

For Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech the answer is simple, football is where they have constructed their identity and how they are building their brand. On the UNC and Duke side, they have opted to tie themselves to basketball.

Well, in the wake of expansion and the numbers piling up with television, we have a clear right and wrong. A winner and a loser of sorts. A right way and a wrong way.

There has been plenty of speculation about the value of basketball in the grand scheme of things; most notably when Kansas, one of the nation's most storied basketball programs, was on the verge of being left in the cold during Pac-12 expansion with the Big 12. Now we can exchange that speculation for a legitimate ruling. If you picked to back basketball as your passion, you picked wrong in the collegiate athletics arms race.

Terry Don Phillips, the Clemson Athletic Director, makes that point in an interview with David Hood:

"For example, in this latest contract with ESPN, 80% of it is generated by football. As good as basketball has been in the ACC, it is very evident just through this contract that football has to be very, very relevant."

Posturing from the Clemson AD? Perhaps just a guy whose school is strongly invested in football is playing up the importance in order to make his point seem more real? Hardly, especially not when John Swofford, the ACC Commissioner, is making the same point:

Swofford estimated that football drives 70-80 percent of rights fees and acknowledged that more national success in that sport would have meant additional revenue.

The writing is on the wall. In growing a basketball first league the ACC has effectively limited itself from cashing in the way other conferences have. For all of the passion and the zeal the pockets of fans have during college basketball season; they do not move the meter the way college football does. At least not in the regular season.

While people fawn over the tournament, they have to remember that cash is not going into the conferences pockets. The money is made off of regular season contests and, simply put, no one is watching regular season college basketball. At least not when compared to the droves of fans tuning into regular season college football contests.

As a conference the ACC backed the wrong horse and it is a little late to climb aboard the football train. What happens next is anyone's guess. Certainly pulling Notre Dame in would be great, but the Fighting Irish have no need to make that move until they are at the end of their rope in the big picture.

The league is what it is; a basketball first conference pulling in two more solid basketball programs while swimming in a pond built for the football sharks. It happens. Sometimes you pick wrong in the grand scheme of things.

All you can do is recognize your mistake and hope to fix it in the future. In the case of the ACC, they have to hope they can fix it before things get to a point of no return. As teams look for a way out, a way to make more money, the ACC must come up with a strategy to improve their marketable product. 

Losing Florida State, Clemson or Virginia Tech would only serve to further dilute and devalue the football product. That makes the next move in conference expansion even more important for the ACC as they fight to correct their issue.


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