ACC country has mixed feelings on the possibility of adding West Virginia to the league. Some believe it's a perfect fit as it would add tremendous value to the conference in both football and basketball and it would bring back old rivalries. Meanwhile, there are others that don't want to see WVU get in simply due to the "small market" and "not living up to the ACC's academic standards".
For those that don't see the value in adding West Virginia into the league, I'm curious as to why? To start, the "small market" and "small fanbase" thing isn't a deal-breaker for the ACC or they wouldn't have Wake Forest, Boston College, Syracuse, and Pitt in the league. Yes, some of those are in big TV markets but attendance for those schools at football games is atrocious.
In 2019, which was the last year schools were allowed to have fans at games, West Virginia averaged 55,907 fans per home football game which was good for 27th-best in the country. That put them ahead of 11 ACC schools: Boston College (34,185), Duke (25,811), Florida State (54,019), Georgia Tech (44,599), Louisville (49,913), Miami (52,829), North Carolina (50,500), Pitt (43,372), Syracuse (42,164), Virginia (47,863), and Wake Forest (26,999). The only ACC schools that averaged more were Clemson (80,868), Notre Dame (76,288), Virginia Tech (58,293), and NC State (56,466). Now mind you, this was also the first year under head coach Neal Brown and the Mountaineers finished 5-7. And to be quite honest, I don't know that some of those schools even had 40,000 in the stands some Saturdays. Not only does West Virginia pack the stands for home games but they travel really with the exception of the Big 12 years and understandably so.
As far as the on-the-field stuff goes, WVU is the 15th-winningest program in college football with 761 all-time wins. Clemson is the ACC's only full member that has more wins than West Virginia with 767 and they just recently passed the Mountaineers to take over the No. 14 spot. Notre Dame is tied with Oklahoma for 5th with 917 wins but is only a partial member of the conference. Not to mention, WVU also has a top 25 basketball program and the 6th-winningest head coach in Bob Huggins. By the end of the 2021-22 season, Huggins could leapfrog past Bob Knight, Roy Williams, and Jim Calhoun to move into 3rd.
With the SEC set to add Oklahoma and Texas, other conferences like the ACC, Big Ten, and PAC-12 need to make some phone calls and try to expand their leagues as well or the SEC will just dominate everything. If West Virginia is available, how do you not take interest in them? This isn't Vanderbilt, Rutgers, or Oregon State we are talking here. It's West Virginia - a school that has a deep, rich history in both major sports. If you are ACC commissioner Jim Phillips, you need to do all you can to add schools like West Virginia to continue to compete with the SEC. Are the Mountaineers a powerhouse in football or basketball? No, but they consistently put together a solid team and don't typically have a string of bad seasons in either sport. When it comes to realignment, it's about building the depth of a league. Once the heavy hitters (Oklahoma and Texas) are taken up, you have to focus on bringing in quality athletic programs that are competitive in more than just one sport. West Virginia has that.
Money has also been a big knock on WVU. Some folks don't believe that West Virginia would generate more revenue for the ACC. So, you're meaning to tell me Wake Forest, Boston College, and Pitt are raking in the dough? Yeah, I don't buy it.
The other hurdle WVU has to overcome is the misconceived notion that WVU doesn't have the strong academic background to belong in the ACC. Recently, WVU released a video on Twitter that details some of the advanced research that the university is doing such as seeking a cure for Alzheimer's, discovering solutions to the nationwide opioid epidemic, launching new ways of producing energy such as shale gas conversion, and transforming carbon into 21st-century manufacturing possibilities among several other studies. This allows WVU to be classified as an R1 Research Universities in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
If the ACC wants to strengthen its brand, WVU is a school they must consider.
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