ACC Expansion

The Syracuse Orange and the Pittsburgh Panthers are officially joining the Atlantic Coast Conference. This will likely be the first of multiple moves in the big six conferences of Division I sports. The decision by ‘Cuse and Pitt to leave the Big East and join the ACC has many implications, both positive and negative, on not only the ACC itself but also the Big East and even the Big XII conference.

Graphic by Josh Strickland/Old Gold & Black

The ACC will be looking at an elevated reputation in its sports, in addition to a very likely increase in revenue. Atlanta, Miami and Charlotte can be considered as the center cities of the ACC, as well as the small city of Greensboro, N.C., where the ACC men’s basketball tournament was held this past season.

With the acquisition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the conference could be looking north and thinking big for their nucleus for sports.

“I don’t think there’s any question that taking a look at New York and Madison Square Garden would be very appealing for Atlantic Coast Conference basketball fans -— and even more so now with even more teams in closer proximity,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said shortly after the move was made official.

“With that being the media center of the world, so to speak, we’d probably be remiss if we didn’t think of it in those terms.”

ACC men’s basketball will benefit tremendously. Both Syracuse and Pitt are powerhouse basketball programs, as Pitt has advanced to the NCAA Basketball Tournament in each of the past 10 seasons and the Orange have in seven of the past 10.

This move will likely end the ongoing debate about which conference, Big East or ACC, is the strongest in terms of men’s basketball, also because there are talks of UConn, the 2011 National Champion, and Rutgers following the Orange and the Panthers to the ACC.

“We’re very comfortable with this 14,” Swofford said. “The only thing I would add to that is we are not philosophically opposed to 16. But for now we’re very pleased with this 14. We think it’s an excellent group.”

What does this mean for our Deacs? Well, after having a nightmarish offseason (losing sophomores J.T. Terrell and Melvin Tabb and the suspension of senior center Ty Walker), it certainly doesn’t help having to add Syracuse and Pitt to our schedule in a few years. However, by the time this move actually takes effect (at this time there is no set date), the Wake Forest basketball program will hopefully be rebuilt and able to compete with these two squads. Despite suffering a heartbreaking loss to Syracuse a few weeks ago, the Demon Deacon football team will likely benefit from this. Depending on how the divisions of the ACC will line up when this move takes effect, and depending on who else, if anyone, joins the ACC, Wake might play Syracuse or Pitt instead of, say, Florida State or Virginia Tech in a given season. ‘Cuse and Pitt are solid football programs, yes, but are far from elite.

Ultimately, this move could indirectly be the difference between a 5-7 season for the Deacs, such as the one the team had in 2009, and a 6-6 season with a bowl appearance.

Due to the fact that both Pitt and ‘Cuse are a good distance away from Winston-Salem (398 and 648 miles, respectively), travel costs for all teams will increase a significant amount. Depending on a divisional reform within the ACC, the Deacs could possibly end up having to travel north to one, or both, of these schools each year.

It seems that increased travel costs would be the only concern for our women’s soccer team. Neither Syracuse nor Pitt have strong women’s soccer teams, so our defending ACC champs should have no problem handling these squads in coming years. The same goes for the Demon Deacon men’s soccer team.

Syracuse field hockey, however, currently finds itself ranked fifth in the nation. In women’s basketball, Pittsburgh is coming off a losing season but has found some success in recent years, unlike the Orange.

With Syracuse and Pittsburgh leaving, the Big East conference takes a hit for sure. Even with TCU joining the conference in 2012 and rumors of adding Villanova for football within the next few years, the conference is in trouble.

The Big XII finds themselves in a similar situation, as both Colorado and Nebraska left the conference prior to the 2011 football season, and Texas A&M was recently accepted into the SEC. There are many talks indicating that Texas and Oklahoma could be on the move next, likely to the Pac-12, but the ACC has also expressed interest in Texas.

Due to the trouble these conferences find themselves in, the Big XII and the Big East have begun discussing a possible merger.

It seems that Pitt and Syracuse transferring to the ACC, as well as Texas A&M to the SEC, have started a chain reaction that could eventually result in a total reform of the BCS conferences.

The immediate effect, however, is the strengthening of the ACC as a whole and the weakening of the Big East.

Logistically, Big East bylaws will require ‘Cuse and Pitt to pay a $5 million exit fee and give 27 months notice before leaving. However, the latter aspect may be modified to ensure an earlier entry into the ACC.

 

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