I'm posting way, way, way more than usual.
It appears that Notre Dame's quest for football independence is coming to a glorious end. Inviting Syracuse and Pitt to the ACC is a convoluted and cunning way to force UND's hand into the ACC. Oh, and adding Syracuse and Pitt also destroys the Big East.
When Syracuse and Pitt were initially invited to the ACC over the weekend, my first thought was "thank you Baby Jesus that we won't have to play football in a new look MEAC in 2013." My second thought was, "why in the world would Clemson, FSU, UNC, and Duke be on board with this move?" By joining the ACC, Syracuse's and Pitt get conference stability, increased revenue, and better leadership, academic peers, among other benefits. But, what does FSU or Clemson or Duke really get from this move? Conference realignment is about football and increasing TV footprints to generate higher revenue streams. So, to increase football revenue the ACC added two marginal (sorry SU) football schools that happen to have excellent basketball squads? Inviting SU and Pitt would likely have little, if any, value-add in terms of football. This low value-add would decrease revenue sharing among existing members. There is an argument that the ACC could make that by adding SU and Pitt is way to preempt the B1G from getting the jewels of the Big East. This would also prevent the ACC from decreasing to 10 members if the SEC comes for Clemson/FSU/Miami. But, if SU and Pitt were already in the B1G the ACC could get some combo of UConn/Rutgers/WVU and achieve the same goal if any ACC schools defected to the SEC. The Big East football members are sadly fungible assets.
That was until last night. Frank the Tank wrote back in June, 2010 that there is an option in clause in the Big East Contract. When the conference re-negotiated its agreement in 2003 the basketball only schools placed an "option clause" in the new contract. In essence, this clause states that if two football members of the Big East leave, the basketball schools will exercise this option that splits the conference in two. Exercising the clause, thereby creates a new league and destroys the Big East. If the conference is split, the basketball members even retain their NCAA payout credits from games played in the Big East. (Ed. note, if this is true, you've got to be fucking kidding me). I don't know if this is correct, but it seems awfully coincidental that the ACC invited 2 BE football members when other options may have existed.
So, if the Big East breaks apart where would UND park their Olympic sports? The B1G and ACC sure as hell won't invite UND unless its in all sports. Frank talks all about where UND would put their other sports, but for many reasons it won't be in the new "Catholic Conference." So, this will force UND to join either the ACC or the B1G as full members to save their Olympic sports. With Syracuse, Pitt, and BC all in the ACC it seems that Notre Dame would "fit" better in this league instead of the B1G.
Then with the Big East no longer in existence, the ACC will be the only big time (and likley only BCS) conference on the East Coast. They don't have to compete any more with the Big East for TV viewership, recruits, sponsors, etc, etc. This way, the ACC can now renegotiate the ESPN contract. The ACC is now firmly in the drivers seat. It feels great to be in a conference that is protecting its constituents rather than waiting for others to act. Standing alone, Syracuse and Pitt as individual schools don't add a thing in football. SU and Pitt are simply worth more as non-members of Big East, rather than anything else. So, by inviting them it crushes the Big East, likely forces UND to join, and gives the ACC hegemony over the East Coast.
When NCAA President Mark Emmert said that the conferences were playing Monopoly and should slow down, this demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the realignment issue. The conferences aren't playing Monopoly, they're playing Risk. And the ACC just moved its pieces up and down the East Coast.
I don't know that option clause exists. But, I wouldn't be surprised. It seems like a Big East type thing. It would also seem strange that the ACC just happened to invite two Big East fb schools. Further, this option clause totally demonstrates the ineptitude of the Big East as a whole. The Big East was really just a house of cards. Pull out two cards and the thing collapses. By allowing the conference to dissolve with a loss of two members shows that the football members had no power in this awful cabal. Of course, the basketball members had a mechanism to stay intact. The conference kowtowed to Providence and would do anything to protect the BB school's rights. I'm thrilled that SU is now in the ACC instead scrambling (like UConn) to get out.