Five Schools the ACC Should Target in Conference Expansion

The ACC should be proactive in order to ensure survival in a new round of conference realignment.
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With Texas and Oklahoma informing the Big-12 that they will not renew their media rights agreement when it expires in 2025, conference expansion/realignment talk is only getting louder and more intense. This is expected to be the first step in both schools heading to the SEC. There are several scenarios that could play out from there, but the best way for the ACC to ensure its survival is to be proactive. That is why it should target these five schools to join the conference. 

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WEST VIRGINIA

WVU has a history with several current ACC schools dating back to its days in the Big East. They included Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech. Renewing those would be appealing to both sides. West Virginia may not be a big television market, but it has a strong fan base for football and basketball with respected programs in both. With the Big-12 in peril with the potential loss of Texas and Oklahoma, the move would make sense for West Virginia as it would preserve a spot with a major conference. In addition, it would help strengthen the ACC.  

CINCINNATI

Cincinnati football and basketball always seem to be good. Those are the two money makers that schools evaluate when looking to expand, with football as the main revenue driver. The Bearcats football program has at least nine wins in seven of the last 10 seasons. That includes going 11-2, 11-3 and 9-1 in the last three years, finishing ranked in each season. Currently in the AAC, Cincinnati could look to move to a power conference. While the AAC is reportedly looking to poach Big-12 schools in order to assert itself as a power conference, the ACC could be an attractive option. It would also further the ACC's reach into the Midwest. 

CENTRAL FLORIDA

Central Florida football has been one of the best non-power five schools over the last four seasons accumulating 41 total wins. The ACC already has a strong footprint in Florida. UCF would only strengthen that. The downside is that the men's basketball program only has one NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 16 years. The women's basketball program, however, has 20 wins in four of the last five seasons. The one in which the program did not achieve that mark was last season, when the Knights played only 21 games due to a pandemic shortened season. UCF was 16-5 in those games. With solid programs throughout its athletics department, and a potentially budding power in football, UCF is a very attractive option. 

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MEMPHIS

Memphis football has seven straight seasons with at least eight wins and the men's basketball program has 21 straight winning seasons. Memphis has been among the best non-power five football teams over the last four seasons and a move to a power conference would only enhance its brand. The basketball program is already considered a high major. Given its location in the south surrounded by states with ACC schools, it makes sense geographically as well. While admittedly this is not a significant concern in most realignment talks, it is helpful when it works out. 

NEBRASKA

Nebraska has never quite seemed like it belonged in the Big-10. It may be a stretch to talk Nebraska into leaving one power conference for another, but with conference expansion nothing is off the table. Why not at least reach out to see if there is interest? The football program may have four straight losing seasons, but the brand is still a factor, there is a tremendous tradition, and the fan base is strong.