There has been plenty of heated debate as to whether or not the Atlantic Coast Conference should expand, but thanks to the wisdom and foresight of seven ACC school presidents that question has been answered. The ACC will expand. There are still some "i"s to dot and some "t"s to cross, but it's basically a done deal.
The two camps on the expansion issue seem to be football fanatics (in favor of it) and basketball purists (in opposition of it). What I'm about to say may come as a shock to some (so get the defibulator ready), but it has to be said: college basketball is a dying entity and in twenty years will be as significant as minor league baseball. And college basketball purists have gone the way of Father Guido Sarducci…outdated and irrelevant. College basketball has been bleeding for years now and no one seems to want to apply a direly needed tourniquet. Instead, they trek through its puddle of blood and leave their prints all over the collegiate athletics carpet.
Don't roll your eyes and shake your head, think it through. Hey, I love college basketball but if you don't think there is a signifi-freakin'-cant difference in the game today and the game ten years ago, you're nuts. The best high school players in the country don't even play college basketball anymore (they go straight to the pros) and the ones that do only stick around for a year (two years max). The days of building great programs are in the past. What you have now are the Calipari/Pitino talent pirates that lure guys to come in for a year before saying "ciao baby." Quick, name this season's ACC Rookie of the Year and tell me what team he played for. Then tell me what team he'll be playing for next year. Notice how only one of those answers is Georgia Tech? Yeahhh, that's what I'm talking about.
Sure there are exceptions like Coach K at Duke and Roy Williams (now at UNC) but look at all of the teams that have come out of nowhere to vie for an NCAA title run only to fall right back into the pack. You've got Michigan State, Marquette, Florida, Indiana and Utah just to name a few, but the list goes on and on. While this is great for parity and March Madness office pools, it blows when it comes to giving a crap about the game and any one team in particular. As much as I despise UNC and UCLA, I don't want to see them as bottom feeders. Watching the Heels and Bruins horrible play the last two years was like watching a donkey show: you have to see it to believe it, but once you've seen it, you wish to god you hadn't.
Now more than ever, college basketball is about the institution instead of the player (which is why I watch N.C. State games- I want N.C. State to do well). And you would think that's the way it should be, but is it really? There would be no Michael Jordan at UNC today, or David Thompson at N.C. State; they would have gone straight to the NBA out of high school. And say what you want about the importance of rivalry, but it's the players that make the sport exciting rather than interesting. Heck, you could grab ten guys at the YMCA and throw N.C State and UNC jerseys on them and it's still N.C. State versus UNC. But do you think you'll sell out the Dean Dome with that talent? I would still watch, but I still watch "Just Shoot Me," so I'll watch anything. That's where college basketball is headed and that's why the ACC has to expand. Football is king and everything else is a $.99 side-dish that comes with it.
Jim Boeheim, the head basketball at Syracuse, (who is against expansion) said it best. "It's about money, power and football in any order," he said. "It's football. It's always football. Football drives everything." Jim Boeheim gets the big picture. And to further illustrate my point, watch how well his team does next year. Led by the spectacular talent of freshman Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse won the national championship last year. Carmelo Anthony has declared himself eligible for the draft (surprise, surprise) and Syracuse won't make it past the sweet sixteen. That, my friends, is the state of college basketball today and it's only going to get worse. Now add in an often-discussed Developmental Basketball League that the NBA has proposed and you will have absolutely mediocre talents playing at major collegiate programs. Instead of scouting summer camps and tournaments, college coaches are going to be scouting parks and recreational centers.
It pains me to say this, but college basketball is kind of lame anymore. I'm well aware that March Madness commands more money than any other sporting event, but that's largely because of office pools and intrigue. A whole lot of people that jump on the Big Dance bandwagon could care less about college basketball from November to February. And they just want to see their longshots (i.e. Syracuse or Marquette) take a Cinderella twirl through the tournament.
This leads us to football. Ah, sweet football. Football far and away generates the most revenue and interest of any college sport, so you're damn straight that football should dictate the future of the ACC. And unlike basketball, players can't defect for the pros until after they've been out of high school for at least three years. This rule keeps players in school longer and allows for program building to occur (look no further than our own Chuck Amato to illustrate this point). College football is on the rise and will only get stronger once a playoff system is put into place (which is where this whole BCS/super conference thing is headed).
So what teams do we include in expansion? The most likely names being tossed around are Miami (the cornerstone of expansion), Syracuse and Boston College. The only team I care about is Miami. That's it. I, personally, would like to see us bring in Miami, Penn State and Virginia Tech (or maybe Louisville instead of VT). I can live without the ungodly humidity of New York or Boston in the summer or the miserable weather in the winter. I really don't care who we bring in, as long Miami is part of the package we win. We will be the premier football conference in the country (to match our basketball prowess). The Big East is going to make a last ditch effort to keep Miami but it won't work. We can offer more money, more prestige and less travel. Think of it this way, why would Miami continue dating Monica Lewinsky when it can move in with Krista Allen?
But hey, ACC basketball had a great run- and yes- it is still without a doubt the best product in college basketball. But in today's changing landscape, that's kind of like being the most talented member of N'SYNC or the coolest Edsel on the lot. Oh well, maybe some Prozac and a chili dog will cheer me up about college hoops.
Stay safe and stay tuned…