How Will Conference Expansion Affect Duke?

Mike KlineAnalyst IJune 10, 2010

The news hit like a tornado across the Great Plains: The Big Ten (or Big 11) was growing by at least one school.

With that news, writers, bloggers, and commentators across America took to the task of deciphering what this would mean for the newly expanding conference and what looks like the soon-to-be defunct Big 12 Conference.

While the Pac-10 and Big Ten appear to be making moves to become mega-conferences a la the Big East, conferences like the ACC and Conference-USA have to be wondering how this might affect them.

If the Big 12 could be pillaged into nonexistence, could the same thing happen to the ACC? If so, what would that mean for Duke?

The ACC expanded to its current 12-team format for the sake of football. The goal was to bring in traditional power Miami and add solid programs in Virginia Tech and Boston College to improve the ACC's football.

While the success or failure of that move is still up for debate, the move certainly cost the ACC's basketball something special in its round-robin regular season.

Duke, a power in basketball and defending national champions, can rest easy knowing that it is hard to imagine them not ending up in a power conference if the ACC ceases to exist. However, the Blue Devils' improving, yet considerably more feeble football program, does make you wonder about the school's future.

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For a long time, many felt the ACC should trade Duke out for another "football" school. However, that was not going to happen thanks to the success and money-making ability of the basketball program.

And there was no way Duke would be in one conference for football and another for basketball.

So, if a drastic change comes to the ACC, what becomes of Duke?

For starters, you can look to Duke's closest neighbor and fiercest rival, North Carolina. There is no way that those two schools will not end up in the same conference. The revenue and attention from at least the two basketball games they play would be reason enough for any conference to desire both.

It is understandable that Duke football doesn't have much appeal, but coach David Cutcliffe has worked very hard at making the once-laughing stock of Division 1 a respectable program, who was one win away last year from being bowl eligible.

An overlooked benefit of having Duke in your conference is probably the school's academic prowess.

Duke generally provides the ACC with some of, if not the highest graduation rates. And that is pretty much for every sport.

With the amount of negative press that programs and conferences have been receiving for not meeting even basic academic requirements, Duke would be a boost to a conference's attempts to appear like academics are still important in college athletics.

So, it is clear Duke will have a home; however, there will be some negative consequences on Duke if the ACC folds, especially for the football program.

The ACC, as it currently stands, gives Duke the best opportunity to continue to build the football program to a respectable level as a regularly bowl-eligible team. The current level of the programs allows an improved Duke team to at least compete.

A move to a super-conference full of uber-competitive or traditional football powers might stunt their growth and development. It would also make it even harder than it is to pull themselves from the perennial cellar dwellers they have been. They would also have to recruit against the giants of the college gridiron.

In the long run, it remains to be seen what the future holds for the ACC. If the current trend of expansion continues to grow, as it appears it will, the ACC will either have to grow bigger by recruiting more schools, or die.

Duke will find a home regardless of what happens. Whether that is in the current or expanded ACC, or another conference with a name that demonstrates a mathematical paradox, we do not yet know.

As it stands, it is will be an interesting few months for Duke and the ACC as a whole as the NCAA landscape changes forever.