I have been reading quite a few posts and stories offering strong opinions on realignment in college football now that Texas and Oklahoma appear to be on their way to the Southeastern Conference. And most seem to have the same thing in common.
They’re totally missing the point.
This, I’d say to those scribes and posters, is not about football. This is about money. Power. Self-determination for a select group of schools to do what they want to do. It’s the beginning of the end for the NCAA with the football brand names breaking away into 4 super conferences so they can not only do what they want, they can keep ALL the television revenue.
It’s also about the long-term survival of ESPN.
I realize many will argue against this notion, saying it’s not fair, particularly to the smaller schools. But in the words of The Godfather, “This is nothing personal. It’s strictly business.” And in the world of business, the big guys call the shots, and that’s why they spend all their time endlessly trying to get bigger.
Let’s pretend you own a company called the SEC. You’re the top brand in the business. You have a sizable say in what goes on because of it. You now get to cripple a competing organization by taking their best two brands and are now even more powerful.
Why would you stop there at 16 teams?
Heck, you’ve not only created a situation where you’re the cool kids at the table that everyone else wants to be part of, you’ve created a situation where many realize they HAVE to be a part of it. When it comes down to loyalty and principles versus survival, Las Vegas would never take odds on that competition because survival always wins.
Every. Single. Time.
The SEC also realizes if they go to 20 with their arsenal of brands, the only other conference who could try to do something similar is the Big Ten. The Big 12 may think they can just add two new schools to replace Texas and Oklahoma, but they’re toast. The Big East thought the same thing years ago when Virginia Tech, Miami and BC left.
Remind me again about how relevant the Big East is in Football these days?
The Atlantic Coast Conference may survive just because the master plan ESPN is hatching behind the curtain needs four conferences. But while I absolutely love the ACC and want them desperately to grow to the size and stature of the SEC and Big Ten, they’ve been hopelessly mismanaged, or at a minimum, terribly naïve about their value in the marketplace.
I mean, when ESPN started delaying the launch of the ACC Network, it wasn’t because they couldn’t find a way to make it happen immediately. It’s because there was not the value or demand for the network in the marketplace the ACC thought they had. Visions of the days when ACC basketball dominated the nation danced in their heads, but this was not going to be your father’s sports league. Football ruled the day, and the additions they made in the previous years did nothing to address that or television demand.
When they were an 11-team league, the ACC added Boston College to get to 12. What did that add, since from a television standpoint, they don’t even dominate ratings in their own hometown? They were good, but not great, in football and basketball occasionally. The ACC picked them because it was convenient, and since then several other additions have also been out of convenience.
This has now resulted in a league with more teams, but not more demand.
I worked in one industry for many years that had two methods of distribution: One sent reps into every store there was, asking “do you want our product?” The other went into a market, picked out the one or two strongest retailers and approached them. If refused, they worked with those two until they came up with a product, or deal – or both – until they got what they wanted. They doubled their business over the 5 years I was with them because they decided they would deal with the best, even if they had to wait.
The ACC has taken the first method with their latest additions. I’d have said screw that, go get Penn State. The biggest thorn in the ACCN's side is Comcast not carrying the channel, so you go get Penn State, and together with Pitt, you own Pennsylvania, where Comcast is headquartered. Give them whatever they want, and because it weakens the Big Ten, ESPN would probably help. And if Notre Dame wanted three times the amount of shared television money to play football in the ACC, give them what they want too. But add jewels to your crown, because that’s the only way you add to your value and leverage with a television network.
That’s exactly what the SEC is doing now.
I think the ACC has allowed itself to become vulnerable on this latest round of college football wars, because let’s face it, if the SEC found a way to poach Clemson, you’ve gone from a league with one great team and several really good teams, to a nice conference who plays below the top-10 rankings line in the sport. Let those next 4 for the SEC be Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami and Florida and the SEC now owns the football crazy states of Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
The ACC would then become a combination of Big East and ACC leftovers, and I’m sure ESPN would really love the ACCN’s value then. Potential recruits in those fertile recruiting areas would probably feel the same.
If you think that could never happen, then let’s look again from a business leverage standpoint of the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain, which is ESPN. The 4-letter network allegedly worked for six months with Texas and Oklahoma on this. They also know that no team can leave the ACC until 2036 because the brilliant leadership of the ACC gave television rights until then to ESPN in the ACC Network deal.
That means no other conference could go after Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State or Miami unless the owner of those television rights relinquished them. Which is ESPN. Which is supposedly behind the scenes brokering the exodus of Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12. Who would approve it if those teams went to a 20-team SEC in a heartbeat.
Starting to see the big picture?
The next few months will be interesting. I believe that if you’re not in the Big Ten or the SEC, your league is battling to see if you’ll have a chair when the music stops and the 4 20-team leagues break away to be the new Division I. That’s where all the money, all the television coverage and all the media attention will go. That’s also where all the previous NCAA rules will be peeled back, creating a wild, wild west of college football.
To use another phrase from The Godfather, these are times for the ACC that require a “wartime consigliere” now that Texas and Oklahoma have fired the first salvo.
Let’s hope the ACC doesn’t get “Tom Hagened.”
Let's hope the ACC doesn't "Go to the Mattresses." For years we bragged of the ACC's high academic standards. Then Louisville was admitted. So much for academics.
No worries about the ACC at all. They will be fine. If it was meant for them to fold or be greatly reduced, it would've happened in Realignment 2004-5 or Realignment 2014.
In 1953, several programs from the Southern Conference formed the ACC (Clemson, South Carolina, UNC, Wake, NC State, Duke, and Maryland), but Maryland was wary of their neighbors to the south and South Carolina was wary of their neighbors to the north. They thought UNC called the shots, but another school was the "ring leader" and was the impetus for starting the ACC - Wake Forest. And that is why Wake holds an enormous amount of power to this day.
Later in 1953, Virginia was admitted and Maryland was not happy, but they could do nothing about it. And thus begins the unhappiness of SC and Maryland. SC became increasingly convinced that UNC was blocking their clout, but nothing could be further from the truth and they left in 1971. After that, the ACC wanted Georgia Tech, but it would take eight years for that to happen.
Florida St. was adamant about not wanting to join the SEC and went with the ACC in 1991. Do you think they want to leave now? Miami and Fla St. do not fit the profile of the B1G and Miami is not a state flagship, so that rules out the SEC.
The B1G went hard after Duke, Virginia, UNC, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Maryland a few years ago. Really hard - and Delaney was convinced he had the deal in the palm of his hand, especially with the big-time help of FOX Sports. Duke, Virginia, UNC, Clemson, and Georgia Tech didn't budge (and that is with no ACC Network at the time) and Maryland saw an escape route. The ACC made a half-hearted attempt to keep MD, but Louisville was the ace up the sleeve. Many of the original members were glad to see MD leave.
The B1G went on to add a consolation prize. Rutgers. RUTGERS! The B1G thought that NYC was now their market. No. The most popular program in the NYC region is Syracuse with Penn St. a close second. The most popular program in New Jersey is Penn St. - by a wide margin. Rutgers was the result of not getting all of those ACC schools and the ACC made the B1G into a laughingstock with that deal. And why would any ACC school join the B1G after that fiasco?
Boston College was thought to be heading to the B1G and there is a strong rumor that they suddenly reversed course on the strong advice of another institution - Notre Dame. Notre Dame is the other ace up the sleeve of the ACC. If there are going to be super conferences (and it appears like that will happen), Notre Dame will then become a full member and the B1G will lose again. B1G thought they had the DC market when Maryland switched, but they must share it with the ACC (UVA, VT) and Georgetown. Yes, the eastern strategy failed. And Penn St. was not happy to see Maryland in the conference.
The SEC and the ACC have enjoyed a cordial relationship for many decades and that is why they play one another in various sports. The SEC wanted Virginia Tech, but chose to let things play out with the ACC. VT always wanted to be in the ACC and got their wish. The SEC didn't have a problem with it.
West Virginia really wants to be in the ACC and we'll see what happens. My guess is that the league will accept them if some small improvements are made with academics - much like we have seen with Louisville, Miami, and Fla St.
Best guess is that the B1G will add Kansas and Iowa St. - both are AAU schools and that will be acceptable to that league. The BIG 12 was the conference that was the most vulnerable over the last two decades and now it is showing. Texas Tech, Okla. St. and Kansas St. will move to the PAC 12. The big losers will be Baylor and TCU. And the ACC will be fine.
One thing that could derail the creation of super conferences - litigation. Class action lawsuits. Lawsuits across media empires. It's going to be messy and could take decades to sort out. Then again, it could be worked out quickly, so we'll see.
Also, the ACC has more aces up their sleeves. They will be fine. If Notre Dame and West Virginia fall into their laps, then so be it. One other thing is certain. They will not have an embarrassing Rutgers moment.