Pittsburgh and Syracuse have been accepted to the ACC. It's been signed, sealed, and the process of Big East withdrawl will be the next challenge for the 13th and 14th schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The move caught the Big East offguard, and provided a more certain future for the ACC's current schools.
The uncertain future of the Big East can be identified in the responses from other Big East member schools. Take, for example, this statement released by University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst.
"UConn is pour charter member of the BIG EAST and we have taken a lead role in the league's success over the years. However, it is my responsibility as President that we stay in constant communication and be actively involved in discussions with our counterparts from around the country to ensure the successful long-term future of our university's athletic program. The truth is that our teams will play competitive athletics at the highest level of excellence, wherever things land, and our central goals will be academic success and compliance, as always."Those phrases about "constant communication" and "wherever things land" make it seem as though Connecticut is ready to flirt, if they have not already started to do so. USA Today cited an ACC official in reporting that the conference would be open to adding two more East Coast teams - and said Connecticut and Rutgers would be the candidates.
What about the reaction from the the current ACC members? Obviously the addition of the Panthers and Orange are a huge boost to an already prominent basketball reputation, but the greatest impact for each of the current member schools will not be associated with one particular sport. The ACC's current media deal with ESPN allows renegotiation in the event the ACC added members to the 12-team roster. The advantages of Pittsburgh and Syracuse have already been hinted at by many, particularly Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson.
"From a regional standpoint, adding these two high-quality schools will enhance the marketing footbpring of the league," Anderson said in a prepared statement. "Both Pittsburgh and New York City will offer the conference new opportunities to attract fans in all our sports. We look forward to discussions about the future of the league and would encourage future expansion."
Anderson hit the nail on the head for the ACC's current members: marketing. The conference will now get to expand their brand into two major markets that where there was previously no ACC presence. Increasing the marketing opportunities will raise the value of the product - and thus raise the pay day each school could expect from a renegotiated media deal. Anderson not only gave his approval for the addition of the two new markets, but has even given his thumbs up on the move to 16.
In a teleconference with the media on Sunday, ACC commissioner said they would not be "philosophically opposed" to further expansion, but stressed his content with the current 14-team lineup. Judging by the reports, it seems the conference will sit back and see who moves next. Conference realignment has become a board game, with players strategizing and analyzing each possible move. The ACC has used their turn, and now will likely see how the Big East and Big 12 schools react in the next few weeks.
Texas and Oklahoma will likely step up next, and the college football landscape will wait - and react - to whatever move they choose to make.
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