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The ACC - A Super Conference?

Scott Haynes, College Editor

On Campus Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In the 50 years of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the league has expanded just twice. Georgia Tech was admitted in 1979, with Florida State joining in 1991. It is the latter that has been the biggest move for the ACC, as the addition of the Seminoles earned the league instant credibility in terms of the college football product that the conference put on the field. Since joining the league for the 1992 season, the Seminoles have always been in the national spotlight, while claiming 10 of the 11 conference crowns along the way.

With a television contract that ends in 2005, the once quiet venture of seeking more bang for the buck, has taken center stage, as the ACC powers are on the prowl to land the biggest fish in the sea -- the Miami Hurricanes.

ACC Logo
While it would be a windfall for the ACC to add a national powerhouse so rich in football tradition, it would be devastating for the Big East. So much so, that Big East Commissioner Michael Tranghese has declared openly his displeasure with the ACC, for trying to steal the Big East's gem and thus crippling the conference.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford doesn't really care, as he needs just seven of the current members to agree to expansion. He probably already has as many as six "yes" votes, while he will struggle to get a yes vote from Duke and North Carolina, the ACC's most prolific basketball programs, who still view the ACC as a "basketball conference."

Already one of the nation's strongest conferences in terms of basketball, the addition of Miami to the family would do little to bolster the conference lineup. Miami's success on the gridiron has failed to spill over to the hardwood, as the school's cagers have had some nice seasons, but more often than not, have struggled in the Big East. To appease any basketball purists that view the Miami move as trivial to the basketball product, Swofford is also looking to add Syracuse and Boston College to the expansion package, thus completely pillaging the Big East of almost all of its power base. The current national champion Orangemen, as well as the Eagles, would enhance the already stellar lineup the ACC has on the hardwood.

However, there is a bigger picture.

The future of college athletics may just be in the "super conferences," that can produce championships in difference sports, with football and basketball representing the most recognizable. With that in mind, Swofford has made a preemptive strike to bring in the Miami Hurricanes, rather than sitting back and allowing another conference to lure Florida State away down the road. Swofford's "kill or be killed" mentality, may ruffle some feathers outside of the ACC, but it is that "survival of the fittest" approach that could just put the ACC among the nation's elite conference's regardless of the sport.

Larry Coker
Larry Coker holds up the National Championship trophy on the victory podium after the Rose Bowl.
The timing of this proposed expansion is not a coincidence, with the television contract up for renewal soon. The big money in television is in conference affiliation. With Miami onboard, the ACC could pretty much write its own ticket with regards to a television package that would not only be enormously lucrative for every school involved, but also put the ACC right up there with the Big 12, Big Ten, and SEC in terms of national viewership.

Making the ACC a 12-team conference with two divisions would set up a conference title game, similar to the ones in the SEC and Big 12. The kind of money that that would generate, is just one more positive for expansion.

Make no mistake about it, college athletics is big business and to survive in that world, progressive thinking is a must. No one knows this more than Swofford, who is trying to put his conference at the pinnacle of college sports.

If Miami can be wooed away from the Big East, and there is every reason to think that it can, the ACC could be in a position to put a stranglehold on the Sears Trophy for years to come. Not only the obvious frontrunners will be in the mix, but up-and-coming programs like Maryland, Virginia and NC State could find themselves vastly improved just for having played the Seminoles and 'Canes on a regular basis, thus making the ACC a real player in the BCS, or whatever other championship formula is headed our way.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.

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