The ACC is leaning heavily toward adding a 14th team to replace Maryland and has two favorites for the spot -- UConn and Louisville -- according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
The ACC is also in talks with South Florida and Cincinnati, according to the source, and could add "pretty quickly." Factors on the decision include geography and television market viability, on-field performance and academic success.
All eyes are on the ACC as it protects its own after the Big Ten poached Maryland, a founding member. The league was blindsided by the move but wasn't totally shocked given Maryland's struggling financial department and the school's administrative turnover without an allegiance to the conference's tradition.
This isn't great timing for the Big East, which is immersed in television negotiations with ESPN, NBC Sports Network and others.
Among the four, Louisville's probably a better football/basketball program pound-for-pound, but UConn is the better TV market.
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Conference athletics directors have expressed faith in the ACC despite the Maryland news, but it's clear this is a crucial time for the conference. Keeping Florida State, Clemson and part-time lover Notre Dame happy will be important.
The Big Ten might look to gobble up more TV markets for a 16-team cable reach, making schools such as Georgia Tech a prime candidate.
"Our best wishes are extended to all of the people associated with the University of Maryland,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement Monday. “Since our inception, they have been an outstanding member of our conference, and we are sorry to see them exit. For the past 60 years, the Atlantic Coast Conference has exhibited leadership in academics and athletics. This is our foundation and we look forward to building on it as we move forward.”
Realignment rearing its unpredictable head has put everyone on notice, and made a few folks angry. A source says “several [conference heads] are quite unhappy” with the Big Ten's move, in part because of the curious timing.
I'm told The Big 12 and SEC are happy with their current 10-team and 14-team setups and don't plan to panic but will monitor the landscape.
“Once you get above 14, it makes it incredibly difficult to schedule and play everybody with any kind of consistency,” said a high-ranking official from a power conference. “From a sheer financial standpoint, with new markets bringing new dollars, I think you'd have to take a long look.”