On Thursday, multiple reports announced that the Big Ten will add UCLA and USC in 2024, a move that has shook the foundation of college football. This is the latest move that shows that college football is heading in a brand new direction in regards to conferences and alignment. Last year, the SEC made the first bombshell move landing Texas and Oklahoma, seemingly the first step in a mega-conference.
It looks like the Power 5 model is no more.With those subtractions both the PAC-12 and Big 12 look to be in tough shape, with the former reloading, and the latter looking ripe for more plundering. But where does that leave the ACC? The conference sits in a precarious spot right now, solid in their membership, but very susceptible to losing members to poaching by the Big Ten and SEC. On Thursday shortly after the USC/UCLA news, Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic tweeted out that the Big Ten and SEC are not done, and they are going to try and add more teams to their growing mega conferences.
The first two teams that come to mind that could be poached? Florida State and Clemson. In 2021 when the SEC were sniffing around for other teams, the Seminoles and Tigers names both came up as potential candidates. If the SEC is trying to build a mega-conference with elite programs, they would get the history and geographic proximity of both of these schools. And with the money, and matchups they could offer them, it would make a lot of sense for CU and FSU to flee the ACC and head to the SEC.
If those two teams were to leave, expect the dominos to fall for the ACC, and the conference immediately falls into the precarious predicaments of the Big 12 and PAC12.
The path for staying relevant and not dissolving does not look easy for the ACC Conference, but it is not impossible. New commissioner Jim Phillips needs to have a punch list of things that he needs to accomplish to keep the conference afloat.
First and foremost, he needs to get out of the ESPN TV deal. While the Big Ten is busy shopping for a television rights contract that could possibly double what the ACC has, Phillips needs to get out of the ESPN friendly deal. But he can't just do that with the conference sitting put, he has to hold the media giants feet to the fire.
That means the ACC needs to be aggressive in realignment. If Phillips can add teams that significantly increase the value of the conference, they could in theory force ESPN to tear up the contract and write a more favorable one to the ACC. Of course the team everyone is going to bring up is Notre Dame, who currently is ACC in everything but football. Landing the ACC's white whale would immediately be the life boat the conference desperately needs, but it seems like that will be a very tough thing to make happen. Jack Swarbick, AD at Notre Dame, has made it abundantly clear that the Irish are happy as independents.
But with the PAC-12 now on life support, does Phillips go in for the kill shot and try to poach the other coast? Could the ACC keep themselves afloat by adding teams like Oregon, Cal, Washington or Stanford? It is certainly an odd matchup, but so is UCLA in the Big Ten.
This is a time that Jim Phillips and the ACC need to stay aggressive. Sitting back and just hoping Notre Dame has a change of heart and joins the conference is foolish and could end up with the conference being plundered and eventually dissolving. But if the conference can be assertive and proactive, maybe, just maybe the ACC can find a home in the new crazy world of college football.
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