June 2, 2003 This couldn't be a worse decision. The ACC portrays its expansion from nine to 12 members as visionary and essential. Arrogant and selfish are more like it. Nothing against Miami, Syracuse and Boston College, mind you. Fine institutions all. We love the restaurants in Little Havana, the beer joints in Syracuse and the architecture at BC. But pillaging the Big East to bring them to the ACC? It makes as much sense as adding Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and Smokey Robinson to the Backstreet Boys. ACC expansion zealots such as Georgia Tech athletic director Dave Braine counter that 12-team mega-conferences' are the future of major college sports (read: major college football). Any league without 12, they argue, won't be a player when football's next postseason structure is created in 2006. What a crock. This isn't vision. This is panic. Yes, the ACC's football television contracts expire after the 2005 season. And yes, if Florida State continues to slide, the league will have little leverage in negotiations. But last year the ACC distributed $9.7 million to each of its members, more than any conference. Isn't that enough?
Columnist David Teel, in the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press
ACC commissioner John Swofford knew the time was right to make the biggest change in the ACC's 50-year history. It was eat now, or eventually be eaten. Miami, one of the biggest plums in college sports, was ripe to be picked. If the ACC didn't act, it's quite possible that Florida State would have been poached in a couple of years, leaving the ACC as a football conference that didn't matter enough nationally once again.
Why is all this revamping necessary? Because the collegiate landscape was about to change, with or without the ACC. Before the 2006 football season, all major TV football contracts expire and the Bowl Championship Series will be reshaped. Basically, more is better, especially for football. The SEC's football championship game has been extremely lucrative. The ACC's will be, too. Yes, this ACC expansion is about following the money. But it's also about leading the way.
Columnist Scott Fowler, in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer
The common concerns of the current nine ACC members include far more than money, far more than BCS berths or television revenue. The next expansion will come only after the nine schools redefine their own and the interests of those schools considered for what would be the last opportunity to grow or not to grow. Miami leaving the Big East would signal the end of that conference. If the Big East falls, the money grab would begin. The ACC can choose to participate, taking its pick from the pieces, or choose to retain the culture of the conference as we know it.
The news will not be in the possible splitting of the Big Four or the formation of geographically incorrect divisions or even the redistribution of wealth and tournament tickets among the schools. The news will be that the ACC has chosen to become a coalition of markets, an alliance of private and public football machines poised to take advantage of the next century of bowl games, championship payouts and TV payoffs. What's sad is that it might be inevitable. The conference formed in Elizabethan austerity and collegiate character would swallow up its past to ensure its future. To be or cease to be relevant. That is the situation.
Columnist Ed Hardin, in the Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record
One of the last bastions of honor, tradition and integrity in big-time college athletics waved its white flag in surrender when the ACC decided to expand. For 50 years the ACC has stood somewhat above its brethren, long believing that athletics was merely a supplement to education while remaining for the most part free of the money-grubbing, scandal-laden fray of the college athletic landscape. Throughout, the ACC remained a quaint family of seven, eight or nine members working toward attaining quality programs and unwilling to succumb to the widespread belief that bigger means better. No more.
The league needs look no further than to its neighbors in the Southeastern Conference to see the future. Since the SEC expanded to 12 schools in 1991, nearly every program has been on NCAA probation or under investigation by the governing body of college athletics. The SEC arguably is the top athletic league, across the board, in the country. With that acclaim has come the well-earned label of being a bandit conference. In hindsight, perhaps the ACC should have worked a trade with the SEC to get the football-crazed schools and basketball-thinking schools in their proper leagues. They could have swapped, say, Florida State and Clemson for Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Instead, the ACC opted to trade its soul for the almighty dollar.
Columnist Ron Morris, in the Columbia (S.C.) State
Expansion will make the ACC the closest thing to a national conference. Stretching from South Beach to New England, the 12-team league will lay claim to the entire Eastern Seaboard. The reason folks in the Northeast watch SEC football is that the Big East has given them no compelling alternative. A fleshed-out ACC will offer more filling fare. Of the six conferences aligned in the Bowl Championship Series, the ACC and the Big East stood fifth and sixth in the ephemeral categories profile, prestige and tradition. Taking three of the bigger Big East schools and grafting them atop the established ACC will bump the new league up at least two notches. As the reconfigured league draws more viewers, other leagues will draw fewer. In the widening matrix of cable outlets and programming blocks, there are still only so many eyeballs.
Television drives sports because television equals money. The ACC has long been seen as the best basketball conference, and expansion won't hurt the hoops side. (Indeed, the addition of Syracuse will put the past three NCAA champs under one awning. How imposing is that?) But for all the money to be made in basketball, football remains the cash cow football with its various weekend TV packages, football with its zillion lesser bowls, football with its big-ticket BCS. The occasional individual successes of FSU and Clemson and Georgia Tech and Maryland notwithstanding, the ACC has spent 50 years only playing around at football. Incorporating Miami will make it a major player.
Columnist Mark Bradley, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Miami leaving the Big East is about as monumental as me leaving my house to pick up the dry-cleaning. There was not enough history, in duration or rivalries, to merit any sort of emotional farewell. This ain't Nebraska bolting to join the Pac-10, or the Gators leaving the SEC. So the departure is no big deal here. Miami's eagerness to join the ACC, and that conference's lust for UM, both are understandable, and arguable only if you happen to be a doomed Big East official desperate to keep his job and not wind up as an associate media relations director for the Mid-Southern Lil' Sky Conference.
The ACC is smarter geographically for the Canes and assures a better windfall from increased revenue sharing, and make no mistake that dollars steer the wheel here. UM would be joining the Conference of Consulting Actuaries if it came in with a bigger payday. Mostly, though, Miami gets better, bigger competition. A grander national stage. And what the ACC gets is entirely reciprocal. Suddenly, the country's premier conference for college basketball also has the country's premier college football program, the jewel of the whole deal. The epicenter of the two signature college sports is under one roof now.
Columnist Greg Cote, in the Miami Herald
Tradition? Spare me, brother. Tradition is all well and good, but you cannot spend tradition. You can't use tradition to pay for an expanded stadium. You cannot build a new athletic department office building with tradition. Tradition is what fans talk about and sportswriters rhapsodize about. It is what the dearly departed Southwest Conference had in abundance. What it didn't have in 1996 was four key teams, and hence it had nothing. Tradition is, frankly, all well and good, but it's not what athletic directors lose sleep over. They lose sleep over you guessed it M-O-N-E-Y. Or the absence thereof.
What this all translates into is big dollars, and big dollars are what count in big-time college sports. They count for more than words like honor or commitment and more than concepts like tradition and history. Big dollars are what counts because you can count them. Which is why you can count on the ACC doing what Miami wants to make sure they all get what they need more M-O-N-E-Y. All they have to do to get it is convince three teams to sell out the Big East. Trust me on this, that will be the easy part.
Columnist Ron Borges, in the Boston Globe
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