ACC: Manifest Destiny

John Swofford has some good ideas. He just hasn't taken them far enough yet.

Clearly, the Atlantic Coast Conference's commissioner has dispensed with the quaint notion of a conference as a regional aggregation of academic institutions with some common values or backgrounds. That much is obvious by the wooing of the University of Miami, a school located 800 miles to the south in the land of (coconut) milk and (scantily clad) honies.

Miami's closest neighbor in the ACC, Florida State, is located in Tallahassee, which has about as much in common with South Florida as Raleigh does with Las Vegas. But I say bully for Swofford. He realizes that dollars – not nostalgia – are the fuel that will keep the conference's engine running through its next 50 years. The millions of dollars the conference can make through a conference title game in football as well as shrewdly negotiated television contracts will ensure the conference's survival while dealing tough financial blows to one of its major regional competitors, the Big East.

The only problem with this is that Swofford still seems to cling to some silly ideas, including (1) retaining all nine current ACC members and (2) expanding into states that actually border the Atlantic Ocean. Rubbish! He's lit the match -- let's blow this powder keg proper like.

The idea here is to make as much money as possible for the ACC while hurting competitors as much as possible, tradition be darned. With that in mind, let's take a look at some possible moves the ACC should make to transform itself into a true "super conference."

First, there's no financial reason to keep all the current members. Clemson, the sick man of the ACC, has got to go. Bad location. Bad facilities. Bad basketball team. The only thing this school supposedly has going for it is the football program, but I don't seem Tommy Bowden sporting any conference title rings, let alone national title jewelry. Don't trip over Howard's Rock on your way out, fellas.

It's tempting to toss Virginia too, based on Pete Gillen's bumbling and the school's annoying persistence on billing itself as Mr. Jefferson's University. Still, the football program looks like it might be on the rise, so we can't boot them just yet. We'll keep an eye on these guys, but they stay for now.

The decision to keep the rest of the schools is easy. Georgia Tech has the Atlanta market and a pretty good football program. Maryland has access to the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore markets, plus nationally competitive football and basketball programs. FSU's football future isn't as solid as its past, but the Seminoles are still a powerhouse football school with a fervent following and I expect Leonard Hamilton will make them a respectable hoops program.

The Big Four have to stay in the ACC. Much as we'd like to will them into oblivion (or worse, the MEAC), North Carolina stays because of the overall strength of its athletics program. Duke stays because of its basketball program and because we need at least one scrub team in football to schedule for homecoming. Wake gets the nod because it shows the promise of being respectable to good in both major revenue sports – no easy accomplishment for a small, private school. N.C. State gets to stay because, well, it's the greatest university ever (hey, this is a column, I'm SUPPOSED to be biased. Deal with it).

With the deadwood in Death Valley dispensed of, and the Wahoos put on notice to shape up or start getting their resume ready for Conference USA, we can properly examine the expansion candidates. Miami, due to its football earnings potential, has been the lynchpin to this entire process, so we obviously want to extend an invitation to them. The ‘Canes apparently want Syracuse so bad that not inviting the Orangemen could be a deal breaker. Syracuse would give the ACC access to the New York market, a national championship-caliber basketball program, and if recent history holds, a good football program. Can't argue with any of that, so we take the ‘Canes' brothers in orange as well.

That leaves us with two slots to fill. Miami is said to be very bullish on Boston College. Well, isn't that special? We appreciate the advice, but the ACC can do a lot better. Besides, taking BC as well as Syracuse and Miami could doom the Big East. I'm no Big East mark, but I don't hate ‘em either. If we're gonna kick a conference where it hurts, let's go for somebody that REALLY deserves it: the Pac-10.

To that end, let's invite the University of Southern California to join our merry bunch. The Trojans are in a huge TV market and both of their major revenue sports have performed well over the past few seasons. More importantly, those trips to the Left Coast would give sportswriters a chance to see one of the great wonders of the 21st Century: Laker girls. We're such a cheap lot we'd typically never pay to see a sports contest, but Laker girls a re a different story. As long as you're already in town covering the NCSU-USC men's water polo game, might as well splurge a little for tickets to the Lake Show...

With our expansion to the Pacific, we now need to add just one more school in our exercise in manifest destiny. Texas is the perfect candidate because (1) it can make us a lot of money and (2) the ACC already has ties to its two most prominent coaches. Football coach Mack Brown is an old Swofford buddy from the UNC days. Longhorns basketball coach Rick Barnes is a lifelong ACC follower who used to helm Clemson. We might just hold onto some of the IPTAY contingent by bringing him into the fold...

With the expansion question settled, we still have one unresolved problem: the conference's name. As the Big Ten will tell you, we can't change the conference's name simply because it's inaccurate anymore. Of course, it's stupid to have a name like Big Ten when you have 11 members, but decades of branding went into that name – no way you can drop it.

Luckily, all we have to keep are the initials "A" "C" and "C." Just call us the All Capitalists Conference.


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