For the next entry in my series, I'll look at how the ACC reacted to the end of the super-conference era -- and its northern half leaving to be part of the re-imagined Big East.
After losing half of its members to the reborn Big East, the ACC had to act quickly and boldly if it wanted to retain its place as a top-tier conference. Still, the conference was secretly happy when Miami announced plans to return to its traditional independence rather than remain in the ACC. By making some concessions to Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, encouraging some subtle recommendations from the state governments, and letting the non-Atlantic Coast members absorbed in the super-conference era go, the new ACC was born.
League Name: Although the new conference covers somewhat less of the Atlantic Coast than the ACC of 2011 does, it's still made up only of schools in states which border the Atlantic. Hence it's staying the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Members: There are essentially four groups of members for this conference. The North Carolina old ACC schools (Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest), the South Carolina schools (Clemson and South Carolina), the Georgia schools (Georgia and Georgia Tech) and the Florida schools (Florida and Florida State).
Advantages: Although it "only" includes two top-ten TV markets (Atlanta and Miami) and a little over 40 million people, the new ACC is located in a region that is passionate about college athletics; basketball in North Carolina and football in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Although some of the deep rivalries within this conference are old ACC or SEC rivalries, some of the more notable ACC-SEC rivalries (Florida-Florida State, South Carolina-Clemson, Georgia-Clemson, and Georgia-Georgia Tech) become conference games in this conference. Florida, Florida State, and Georgia are traditional major football powers; Duke and North Carolina are traditional major basketball powers. Florida is one of the top 3 states for college football recruiting; Georgia and North Carolina are also up there. And with less than 500 miles separating Durham and Gainesville, this conference is also quite compact.
Disadvantages: There may be some discontent between the basketball-loving North Carolina schools and the football-loving schools in the rest of the conference. The University of Miami is not in this conference, which limits its appeal in one of the largest cities in its footprint. North Carolina and Florida have I-A universities which are not included in this conference and may try to use political factors to force their way in. The Carolinas have more major college athletic programs than their popuation justifies, which limits the ability of any of them to succeed.
Summary: While gaining Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina on paper doesn't offset the market losses of losing the northern schools (BC, MD, VA, VT) to the new Big East and Miami to independence, the new ACC has a much stronger hold on Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina than it did previously and consolidated an identity as the major conference in the coastal southeast. Another solid conference in my book.