It’s always a good day to plunder the Big East
The slow and gradual collapse of the Big East, which was caused in no small part by the misguided basketball-only schools who never realized that football must come first, leaves plenty for the plunder.
20 years ago, not realizing how much more important football would be than basketball, and lacking the vision to see that television-contract dollars (centered around football) would form the roots of conference stability, the Big East rejected Penn State. The conference has been bleeding ever since, losing Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College, and then more recently West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Louisville. Former Big East, now ACC member Boston College, nets over four-times the money from football that they do from basketball. Georgetown and the like could never understand. Conversely, the ACC seemed to learn this lesson just in the nick of time.
When the recent conference shuffle started, West Virginia seemed likely to leave the Big East. The ACC was the logical landing-place for WVU–technically not on the Atlantic coast, but more geographically in sync than Louisville or Notre Dame. Schools like Duke balked at the idea of adding the 165th ranked National University (academics), and the Mountaineers were turned away, only to find more more lucrative pastures in the Big 12. The ACC would then add two football weenies–Syracuse and Pittsburgh–neither in the top 8 of my football program “Decade Ahead” rankings.
When West Virginia was rejected for academic reasons, I was proud, proud that the ACC stood for something beyond money, while the dirty SEC fought down in the mud and the muck… Then money started speaking louder.
After all the hoopla, conference realignment seemed complete, and with the ACC’s two new additions plus the special agreement and partial addition of Notre Dame, all seemed honky dory. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the cash-strapped athletic department of Maryland left the ACC to join the Big 10. Rutgers would join them shortly thereafter. Suddenly it became clear, that the ACC’s skimpy television contract had made them vulnerable.
The money difference for Maryland was so huge that it was worth leaving for them, despite the $50+ million exit fee, decades of history and tradition, the strain the additional travel will put on their student athletes, and the inconvenience it puts on fans. That’s when the principle of requiring members to be top-notch academic institutions such as Notre Dame, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Boston College, etc., went out the window.
Immediately, the ACC went to work to replace Maryland. After some talk about Navy and Cincinnati, the two realistic options were UConn and Louisville. Louisville, who has the most valuable basketball program in the country, a more developed football program, and superior facilities than UConn seemed the smart choice, as I outlined here. Amazingly, Wake Forest (bless their hearts), Duke, UNC, and Virginia supported UConn. Now I have nothing against UConn, but how could you pick them over Louisville? With the conference in serious trouble, these schools were still clinging to outdated principles. Fortunately, the other Universities chose Louisville, the 160th academically ranked National University, but the best addition to the conference… And that’s the story of how the Tar Heels were dethroned from the ACC, and the conference was saved.
With the ACC saved, and the Big East weaker than ever (rumors are they may resort to inviting A-10 schools) the Atlantic Coast Conference still has more to plunder. The ACC now has 15 teams that will be relying on their bowl lineup (that includes Notre Dame in years they are bowl eligible and not in the Orange Bowl), and just eight guaranteed bowl tie-ins. This year, with UNC and Miami not participating in bowl games, that was not a problem at all, but with Louisville replacing Maryland, and three additional teams relying on the bowl lineup, the ACC needs to grow and improve their bowl lineup. Specifically, they need to find their way into the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
The Pinstripe Bowl currently pairs the Big East against the Big 12. Contracts with both conferences expire after 2013. With the Big East losing so many of their top programs and the Big 12 never really making sense given the geographic stretch, the Pinstripe Bowl may be looking to new conferences to keep their fair bowl alive. The three football programs that presumably would get the biggest draw in New York City are Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Rutgers. Two of them are now in the ACC bowl lineup, and all were previously affiliated with the Big East’s. Furthermore, either Syracuse or Rutgers has been in each of the three Pinstripe Bowl.
The $2,000,000 payout already associated with the Pinstripe Bowl would place it between the Russell Athletic Bowl and the Sun Bowl as a top four bowl destination in the current ACC bowl lineup. Beyond the money appealing to the ACC and the appropriate ACC teams appealing to the bowl, they need to come to terms with the conference that the ACC is awkwardly not paired with in any bowl games, the Big 10.
I’ve always found it strange that the ACC hardly ever battle with the Big 10, while the media always pairs the two as the conferences worthy to discuss only after the SEC and Big 12. The conferences already square off in the ACC/Big 10 challenge during basketball season, and after the Maryland fiasco, there is a bit of bad blood. The Big 10 makes loads more sense than the Big 12 does for the Pinstripe Bowl now that they can offer Rutgers and Maryland, both great fits for a New York City bowl. There are plenty of enjoyable matchups that could be established among the variations of: Notre Dame/ Syracuse/ Pittsburgh/ Boston College/ Virginia/ Virginia Tech v. Rutgers/ Penn St/ Maryland/Michigan/Michigan St. Not to mention that I’d love to get a crack at Penn St or Michigan, and it would “feel good” to have ACC teams occasionally play Maryland, an ACC charter member. If the weather was tolerable, I’d surely make the trip to New York City to see Clemson play in the New Yankee Stadium. Although the bowl is currently a lower tier game that what Clemson fans are accustomed to, it was just two years ago that I attended the Meineke Car Care Bowl where we lost to USF. Plus, it’s the venue makes it seem so special anyway.
There are other bowls in warmer weather locations on my wish lists as well. I’d like to see commissioner Swofford make a play to bring the Gator Bowl ($2.5 mil payout) back. Part of the reason they abandoned their affiliation with the Big East was due to restrictions on how often they could select Notre Dame. Such restrictions don’t apply in the ACC’s agreement and matchups like Northwestern v. Mississippi State aren’t impressing anyone. Additionally, I’d like to see the ACC drop affiliations with the Advocare Independence Bowl ($1.1 mil payout) and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (>$1 mil payout) and take the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl ($1 mil payout) in sunny St. Petersburg as a low-tier replacement. Yes, let’s replace Shreveport and San Francisco with Jacksonville, St. Pete, and New York City. Go plunder Mr. Swofford, it’s always been your thing.
- Infographic: Conf. champs and bowl games (espn.go.com)
- Big East turns back to its basketball roots (nypost.com)
- Tulane Basketball…So Bad It Will Destroy the Big East? (bleacherreport.com)
- Big East Dissolving: 7 Schools Reportedly Will Leave Conference (bleacherreport.com)
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