ACC Presidents Pledge Solidarity, But For How Long?

Posted by EMann on December 7th, 2012

Ethan Mann is a writer for the ACC microsite. He is a senior at Duke University and can be reached at

In the wake of Maryland’s abrupt departure for the greener pastures (ringed with money that actually does grow on trees) of the B1G, the ACC has been bombarded with rumors of the imminent departures of several other of its members, which would signal the impending demise of the conference. Georgia Tech, Virginia, and North Carolina have all been rumored to be in talks with the B1G, with Florida State and Clemson reportedly linked to the Big 12.

What will the ACC look like by the time of the next presidential election? (Duke Chronicle)

Although the conference just added Louisville to replace Maryland, replenishing the supply of teams at 14 for football and 15 for all other sports, most pundits and observers thought that this would not significantly change the ACC’s tenuous position. Unless the ACC can somehow renegotiate its television contract, which pays less than any of the other four major conferences (sorry Big East, but changing your name from C-USA does not mean that you can still be considered a major conference), many will still consider the ACC on shaky ground. The league might need to start groveling for Notre Dame to give up its football independence, but the odds of that happening after this season seem unlikelier than Maryland reneging on their move to the B1G.

The conference is anxiously anticipating the result of its lawsuit over Maryland’s $52 million exit fee, which may decide the future of the conference. In the meantime, the 15 presidents of the ACC (current and confirmed future members) pledged the following on Thursday:

“We, the undersigned presidents of the Atlantic Coast Conference, wish to express our commitment to preserve and protect the future of our outstanding league. We want to be clear that the speculation about ACC schools in negotiations or considering alternatives to the ACC are totally false. The presidents of the ACC are united in our commitment to a strong and enduring conference. The ACC has long been a leader in intercollegiate athletics, both academically and athletically, and the constitution of our existing and future member schools will maintain the ACC’s position as one of the nation’s premier conferences.”

But how strong is this “solidarity,” really? Positive signs for the conference include the fact that all of the aforementioned schools (FSU, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and North Carolina) spearheaded this statement. The schools also have unanimously stood behind the lawsuit regarding Maryland’s exit fee. This is the most positive development for the conference other than the addition of Louisville since Maryland left. On the other hand, the Big East released a similar statement in late 2011, and it has not stopped its conference from moving towards the brink of extinction. Many pundits therefore view this statement as comical and not at all convincing in the face of rampant speculation. As long as the B1G has the TV deal and money that the ACC does not, this threat will remain, as alliances have certainly proven impermanent in the conference realignment era. The ACC’s heightened exit fee was thought to be enough of a disincentive for anyone to leave the conference, but Maryland made mincemeat of that idea pretty quickly.

If this solidarity talk turns out to be a smokescreen and the B1G is successful in poaching additional ACC teams, I really fear for the future of college basketball. Losing the Texas-Texas A&M, Kansas-Missouri, Duke-Maryland and Georgetown-Syracuse rivalries is bad enough, but could one imagine Duke-UNC meeting only once per season, as a non-conference game, or not even at all (quite possible, if one leaves the other behind)? Even though the schools are likely to stick together, nothing is guaranteed in these uncertain waters. If that happens, college sports will have seriously lost its mind. The real doomsday scenario for college basketball is if the four 16-team super-conferences form, break apart from the NCAA, and come up with their own basketball tournament. Then, the magic of the NCAA Tournament would be lost forever, especially by taking away Cinderella. I would like to think that saner heads would prevail before that point and that this dire situation would never happen, but I also never thought I’d see the day when the Border War didn’t occur on an annual basis.

There will eventually come a breaking point when the almighty dollar can no longer stomp out tradition, when travel for non-revenue sports becomes completely insane, or when the B1G’s television model is victimized by a la carte television and a changing of the cable model. Hopefully the ACC’s presidents’ statement is as strong as a blood bond or can evolve into a grant of rights (almost solely responsible for keeping the Big 12 alive), because if not, college sports will continue to head down the road to oblivion, and more and more people will start to become jaded by the ridiculousness of it all. The nine-team round robin ACC isn’t coming back, but having an ACC without North Carolina, for instance, would be an absolute tragedy.

EMann (30 Posts)

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2 responses to “ACC Presidents Pledge Solidarity, But For How Long?”

  1. DMoore says:

    You mentioned the Big12. I’m not sure they’re strong enough to poach from the ACC. I think Clemson and Florida State have already looked deeply into those contracts and seen signs of weakness for anyone not named Texas. Given that the SEC won’t take any key ACC football programs (they don’t need to, and their members don’t want another program from the state of a current member), I think only the B1G is a current threat. I suspect the real question will revolve around seeing what really happens to Maryland, the battle for the exit fee, and whether the B1G really does see a windfall from their poaching Maryland and Rutgers.

  2. EMann says:

    I tend to agree with you regarding the Big 12 and the SEC-I was just saying that the rumors did exist (at least over the summer about the B12). The B1G is definitely being the most assertive right now-and if the exit fee is not upheld, they are definitely the strongest threat to poach more teams from the ACC. And your last point is also accurate-while i didn’t mention that specifically, I would say that is what my last paragraph is generally alluding to (particularly as a precursor to even more ridiculous movements, assuming they take place).

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