The new look of the ACC

When seven schools banded together to form the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953, Maryland was the only founding member not located in North or South Carolina.

Beginning in the 2013-14 academic year, the conference will include 14 teams and only five of them will hail from the Carolinas. The ACC will expand its reach in the Northeast with the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and make a similar push westward with the eventual inclusion of Louisville and Notre Dame.

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The Fighting Irish are expected to begin ACC play in 2015, and will join in every sport except football and hockey. Even though it will maintain its football independence officially, Notre Dame has agreed to play five ACC teams annually as part of the new contract.

Notre Dame has agreed to play five ACC teams annually as part of the new contract. By preserving its independence, Notre Dame ensures the continuation of its mega-deal with NBC that reportedly brings in around $15 million annually.

Within the last week, the ACC extended an offer to the Louisville to become the conference’s 14th member, taking the place of departing Maryland. The addition of the Cardinals adds another top basketball program to an already impressive list. Rick Pitino, along with counterparts Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim, will headline a group of Hall of Fame coaches.

Louisville also brings a solid football team with them, one that just recently defeated Rutgers to secure the Big East Championship. The question remains then, what does the addition of all these new powerhouses mean for the future of Wake Forest sports?

In the short term, it does not look pretty for Demon Deacon athletics. For a football team that finished 5-7 after three consecutive blowouts and a basketball team that will struggle to win any conference game, it is only going to get harder. How many conference wins would the current men’s basketball team secure in the new-look ACC? (The team barely managed to collect four conference victories last season).

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Several years down the road, however, Wake Forest should benefit from the increased quality of schools in the conference. Assuming the Deacons eventually climb out of the basketball cellar, the bevy of top recruits and a formidable schedule should significantly boost the program’s ranking. In addition, the school is guaranteed a spot in a conference that has done an impressive job of stabilizing itself amidst a period of constant realignment. The ACC is nowhere near the SEC, but is also far from the soon-to-be nonexistent Big East.

Quite simply, Wake Forest is incredibly lucky that it was a founding member of its conference, because otherwise the university might not be a part of it. That academic standing of Wake Forest is certainly appealing, but that is the best quality the school brings to the table. Unlike Duke or North Carolina, the Demon Deacons will not draw top recruits or a large fan base.

As by the far the smallest school in a BCS conference, Wake Forest constantly faces an uphill battle. However, if Vanderbilt can win eight games in the SEC, Wake Forest should be able to match that total in the ACC.

The school that produced perennial All-Star Tim Duncan and won 11 football games in 2006 should return to a competitive level once again, it just might take some time.

In the end, always being the underdog is not the worst case scenario. At the very least, it makes for a great story.