After last week’s bombshell that Oklahoma and Texas appear likely to join the SEC, the conference realignment internet revved right back up to 2010 levels of wild. Rumors both reasonable and unfounded were flying, panic seemed to be setting in for non-SEC fan bases, and every hour provided a new avenue for the story to veer down.
For the ACC, we gave the most obvious suggestion, and the one most have championed the whole time: Add West Virginia. But there are far more outrageous solutions the conference can embrace as realignment clearly enters a #BRAND-focused next phase over any sort of TV market or geographic motivation. So we look at some of the more ridiculous ideas that are at least worth a look...
1. Add Notre Dame to a pod format, without making them a full member
Ideally, adding West Virginia to the ACC includes bringing Notre Dame onboard as well. But even after last year’s taste-test of conference life, the Fighting Irish do seem more emboldened than ever to remain independent. ESPN’s David Hale details more about ND’s current situation and why they still seem far off from joining full-time. But the bottom line is, there’s a reality where the superconference era can truly start and they don’t necessarily have to join the ACC as part of that shift.
Clearly pods would be a necessarily part of any WVU addition, though, so why not find a way toss Notre Dame into one of those without making them a full member (so still play some games, and also can’t play for a conference title)?
There’s no easy way to make that happen. But a possible way to make it work:
- Pod 1: Boston College, Pitt, Syracuse
- Pod 2: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami
- Pod 3: Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia
- Pod 4: Duke, NC State, North Carolina
- Pod 5: Clemson, Louisville, Wake Forest
So this format noticeably lacks Notre Dame, but you can basically make them a floating team here (three games), and then have them play another pod as well each season. So that bumps the number up to six ACC games for the Irish — a reasonable price for them to pay for the ACC continuing to provide them with the best of both worlds. Meanwhile, it’s basically the “permanent rivals’ setup, just simplified.
2. Add USC and Stanford
Want Notre to feel more at ease with joining the ACC full-time? How about adding two of their biggest rivals?
In a post-geographically aligned college football environment, the ACC’s academic bend (more significant than the Big Ten’s without the pomp about it) is a perfect fit for the Pac-12’s at-times disgruntled private institutions. There’s always talk of USC going independent, in part due to how much their own conference despises them. An ACC membership gives them a lot of those perks without the sacrifices. And they’d still be able to play UCLA every year if the Bruins didn’t hold a grudge.
Would Stanford go along with this, though? Maybe not. But even USC alone is enough to at least get Notre Dame considering the whole conference membership thing a bit more.
3. Basketball superconference
Football obviously drives the bus, but being THE men’s and women’s basketball conference would be worth something, too. So what about some solution where the ACC decides to bite the bullet on UConn and Kansas football, with West Virginia joining as well.
The resulting men’s conference is 18 teams deep, with over 80 Final Four trips and over 20 national championships. Are we thrilled about this football result? Not particularly. Would it potentially be fine since there’d arguably be one national basketball conference and then everyone else? Possibly.
Hell, if you wanted to tack on Kansas State and Iowa State too, it would be even more impressive — though the football product’s basically thrown out the window at that point from a collective culture standpoint.
4. Pac-12 “Merger”
Maybe a less ridiculous version of the USC/Stanford idea above. But with the Pac-12 and ACC clearly far behind the SEC and Big Ten already from a revenue standpoint, aligning themselves with one another could be advantageous.
In this scenario, the two could continue to operate as separate entities, but combine forces for things like in-season tournaments, postseason games, early season scheduling, TV resources, etc. At the absolute baseline, you’d have a bit of an ACC/Pac-12 challenge in football similar to what the Pac-12 and Big Ten had once proposed.
5. Offer Texas A&M a spot, with the Aggies and Clemson getting larger shares of revenue
First, this isn’t happening, both from an A&M standpoint (no matter how bitter the Aggies are, they don’t want to look like they’re running away here) or an uneven revenue standpoint. The main reason the ACC’s worked for as long as it has is because of even revenue distributions. And if the league managed to pay everyone the same when Florida State was a football powerhouse for over a decade, it seems silly to compromise that now — especially from a Syracuse standpoint, where we’d certainly be disadvantaged in this scenario.
Still, it’s a fun idea to entertain. You could give A&M the leeway to be their own boss a bit and function as a counterpoint to Clemson’s recent football dominance, while bringing in a legitimate culture than enhances the conference and its media rights. If you want to avoid the revenue share issues, perhaps find a way to carve out the tier three rights situation in a way that lets the Tigers (already thinking about it) and Ags pioneer streaming entities that allow them yet another revenue source on top of the league’s base.
Again, some of these are a bit farfetched. But given the state of conference realignment, is any of that all that insane at this point? Have a preferred format above, or your own off-the-wall ideas for what the ACC can do to protect itself as the superconference era appears to be upon us? Share your own thoughts below.