ACC Expansion Opening Pandora's Box?

Phillip Marshall takes a look at ACC expansion and what effect that could have on the college football world.

The Atlantic Coast Conference's request that the NCAA change its rule requiring a league to have 12 teams to have a championship game might not sound like much, but it could be the most significant development to come out of the ACC's expansion.

If the NCAA agrees, it could create a feeding frenzy of college football's big fish eating the little fish.

You have to look no further than the Southeastern Conference. Membership in the SEC is extremely lucrative, but some contribute more than others. When money is at stake, college presidents can become serious predators. And just think how much more lucrative membership in the SEC would be if the money was split up 10 ways instead of 12.

If the SEC were to decide to contract, you might be surprised who would be in jeopardy. It probably wouldn't be Vanderbilt, which brings the Nashville TV market and academic prestige to the league. You would need to look to the west.

Mississippi State and Ole Miss bring little in terms of TV star power. Their overall athletic programs are not strong. Their fans don't travel in great numbers. Though both have been relatively strong in basketball at times, their impact is mostly regional.

The truth is the SEC would be just as attractive to national TV networks, to bowls and all the rest without Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

The same is true of the Big 12. Does that conference really need Baylor or Texas Tech? Nope. Sending them packing wouldn't hurt the Big 12's attractiveness one bit.

Would SEC or Big 12 presidents turn on their own in such a way? Probably not, but if things get tough they could be tempted. And not every conference is so kind. The Big East, which has played the role of victim to the hilt since Miami and Virginia Tech bolted for the ACC, told Temple a couple of years ago it needed to find somewhere else to play football.

With the Bowl Championship Series coming under increasing fire, all this could be leading to a college football playoff. That might be the only way to satisfy the complaints of those on the outside looking in.

Every SEC team except Alabama and Kentucky, who are under NCAA sanctions, got more than $1 million from the BCS last season. The Tulanes and Brigham Youngs of the world look longingly at that money. There is talk of an uprising among the have-nots, of antitrust hearings in Congress.

A playoff won't happen soon, but for the first time college presidents seem to be taking a serious look at the possibilities. A championship tournament involving 8-16 teams would, no doubt, be a financial bonanza. It would also signal the end of bowl games as we know them. Don't buy the argument the bowls could be included in the process. If they were to be included, it would be in name only.

It is not news that college athletics, particularly college football, is big business. Auburn's budget for the coming year will be almost $45 million. The ACC's grab for Miami and Virginia Tech was all about money. It started what could be a period of upheaval.

It is not realistic to think the SEC will be unaffected.

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