Rumors are again swirling about conference realignment

dshirley@macon.comMay 18, 2012 

Brett Favre likely is tired of hearing about it.

Tim Tebow probably would agree.

But here we are with the annual reports about conference realignment heating up again.

That groan you hear is from sports fans all over the country reacting to a story that, like Favre’s career status and Tebow’s legend status, just won’t go away.

This time the talk focuses on the Big 12 and some ACC schools. The basis of the rumors is that the schools outside of North Carolina in the ACC believe the four schools in the Tar Heel State have too much power. It doesn’t help that the commissioner of the conference, John Swofford, has longtime ties to the Tar Heels.

It also doesn’t help that the ACC seems to always make its decisions based on anything but improving its football prowess. And it has backed itself in a corner with terrible decision after terrible decision as it watches itself get passed by for big-money deals for the SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten and Big 12.

That’s why the rumors about Florida State, and possibly Clemson or Miami and even Georgia Tech, moving to the Big 12 moved to the front burner recently. And that’s when my head began to hurt ... again.

It looked like this kind of talk would stop for a while when the SEC added Missouri and Texas A&M, the ACC added Pittsburgh and Syracuse, the Pac-10 added Colorado and Utah, the Big Ten added Nebraska and the Big 12 added Texas Christian and West Virginia. But we’re right back where we seem to start over every year.

And there’s no telling where it will stop. Four 16-team conferences breaking off from the rest of the college world certainly looks like a real possibility.

But the Big 12 is, at best, a shaky fit for these ACC schools.

Sure, the extra money that the Big 12 is getting over the ACC is nice, and it probably would be refreshing for these ACC schools to feel wanted (many ACC fans don’t feel that way right now). But really, once all the extra travel is factored in, the money wouldn’t be that significant, and that money certainly wouldn’t be enough to cover how much the travel would add stress for the athletes.

The fan bases would be hurt, as well. Think it’s hard to get to certain ACC locations now? Well, try Lubbock and Waco in Texas, Ames, Iowa, or Manhattan or Lawrence in Kansas.

ACC fans certainly have a legitimate gripe with the conference being too North Carolina focused. But that problem won’t change in the Big 12. We’ve seen how much the Big 12 bows to Texas’ needs. It’s so bad that four schools have gone kicking and screaming to get out of the conference and join other conferences just to get away from the Longhorns. Two others, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, also have had reports tying them to the Pac-12 in the past.

There’s not much stability in that kind of conference, and conference stability is huge as these moves take shape. No school has left the ACC since the late 1960s, when South Carolina did so, and it wouldn’t be wise for Florida State or any of the other schools to leave to join the Big 12’s 10-team membership unless there were some even bigger changes to come.

If Florida State and, say, Clemson jumped to the Big 12, that would allow the conference to actually match its name and have 12 members. That, however, would put the above-mentioned stress on the athletes and fans, and that’s not enough to make this a good move. But if the conference could add four more members, maybe Georgia Tech, Miami, Louisville and Cincinnati (we won’t even mention Notre Dame) to get to 16 and have an Eastern tier of teams and cut down on travel concerns, that would change the discussion quite a bit.

If the ACC stayed on top of these things instead of just reacting to other moves, it would be looking at such a scenario as possible and would make a preemptive strike to get 16 members before anyone else does. Notre Dame would be a terrific fit, athletically and academically, and a lot of people fancy Penn State as one, as well. While Penn State would seem to work well with Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt, etc., such a move would take prying the Nittany Lions from the Big Ten, which is currently in a position of strength.

But crazier things than that have happened and likely will again. It’s just a matter of time.

Check back next year, and all of this talk will change and heat up again.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or

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