OPINION: Does ACC Have Any Interest?

Published reports in recent days offer some added insight into the expansion decisions made by the Atlantic Coast Conference and what may be ahead. Those reports do not present a promising picture for the University of Connecticut's chances of following Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Big East to the ACC.

OPINION

An article in Sunday's Boston Globe shouldn't be surprising to anyone who has followed the realignment process since 2003, when the ACC conducted its first raid on the Big East and Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech defected. It was a nasty separation process that featured a lawsuit filed in Connecticut and some very strong comments from UConn basketball coach Jim Calhoun about never playing BC again.

As a result, there has been educated speculation that BC was blocking UConn's entry into the ACC. Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo comes right out and admits that in the Globe story by Mark Blaudschun.

"We didn't want them in," DeFilippo said. "It was a matter of turf. We wanted to be the New England team."

And even though all realignment moves hinge on football and television revenue, the ACC clearly is trying to deal a crushing blow to Big East basketball. After losing those prominent football programs in 2003, then-Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese reacted by expanding the basketball conference to 16 teams and building the dominant basketball conference in college athletics.

Anyone with any understanding of ACC history knows that was an insult to the conference's pride. While Duke and North Carolina have remained prominent in the rankings and the NCAA tournament, the ACC has struggled overall. Other than some short-lived success for schools such as Maryland, Wake Forest and Florida State, the ACC has taken a back seat to the powerful Big East in recent years.

Now the Big East is awaiting the inevitable decision that TCU will join the Big 12 before it ever plays a football game in the Big East. The Horned Frogs were supposed to join the Big East in 2012. That's not only a crushing blow to the BCS future of the Big East (it leaves the Big East with just six football playing schools), it also makes the basketball-only members of the Big East more fidgety than ever.

If those schools break away with Notre Dame to form a so-called "Catholic league," it would be a devastating blow to UConn, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers – unless they can find another home. And the goal of the ACC would clearly be accomplished.

UConn was one of the 10 other schools that reached out to the ACC and expressed interest before the moves of Syracuse and Pittsburgh were announced. If the ACC had wanted to expand to 16 teams, the conference's expansion committee would have done it at that time – possibly by adding UConn and Rutgers.

But DeFilippo is on the ACC's 12-member expansion committee. And if you don't understand DeFilippo's feelings about UConn, go back and read the quote from the Globe again. It's pretty clear.

UConn President Susan Herbst has been in discussions with BC President Father William P. Leahy in an effort to smooth relations between the two schools. That isn't likely to make much difference as long as DeFilippo is the AD. There is no doubt DeFilippo is taking great delight in making UConn squirm.

Sources have told UConnPlaybook.com that Miami, another target of that 2003 lawsuit, isn't crazy about the Huskies joining the conference either. And Florida State and Wake Forest have their own issues about how UConn would fit. Some believe the ACC will only expand again if Notre Dame moves in – and that is highly unlikely.

ACC commissioner John Swofford told the Associated Press Friday that the ACC has "begun talks to renegotiate its television deal with ESPN" after expanding to 14 teams. Swofford also said expansion to 16 teams won't happen any time soon. He said the ACC is "very settled" at its new size.

"If there are [expansion] opportunities that present themselves, we'll see," Swofford told the AP. "All of this continues to evolve. But for people to think that we went to 14 to get to 16, that simply would not be an accurate assessment."

None of that bodes well for UConn. We know that things can change in this very fluid environment, but right now doors are being slammed in UConn's face.

And the few remaining doors that might fly open just aren't very appealing.


UCONN Playbook Top Stories