Over the past 12 months, the segment of the population (and it’s a large segment) that cares about college football has been inundated with rumors, reports, and forecasts regarding something which, if the populace were to be polled, they care very little about. I’m talking about conference realignment. You’ll see this referred to elsewhere as “conference expansion”. If you possess even the slightest bit of deductive capacity, you’ll realize that conference expansion doesn’t mean conference expansion; it means conference realignment. After all, a conference can’t expand without taking a team from another conference, which in turn causes the conference losing a team to react in kind. So this isn’t expansion. It’s realignment. After all of the machinations we’ve seen over the last 12 months, conference realignment talk has settled somewhat. Unfortunately, there are some people that refuse to play the wait and see game, and feel the need to put their ridiculous thoughts on display for all to see.
Let me start by saying that the person I’m about to respond to is a troll of the highest order. He’s demonstrated this by going on TV and saying things about Notre Dame’s football program that, well, to be nice, aren’t necessarily true. I sincerely regret linking his piece here, since that lends him more credibility. That’s not to say that more people will read his site because I linked it here. His readership is far larger than ours here. There is no question about that. I just dislike giving credence to those who troll. If you happen to believe what you write, that’s fine. If you’re writing troll pieces that are full of B.S. that you don’t believe, but will bring you clicks and pageviews, well, that I have a problem with. The latter scenario is what I believe Clay Travis is doing with the below piece that I’ll discuss. Not only does it not make sense (on any level), but it’s designed to stir up folks on both sides of his proposed situation. It’s not been thought through well, or corroborated by any sources. It’s merely feces that Clay Travis has pulled from his hind end, and flung against the wall. He just happened to push the publish button before said feces slid off, and hit the floor. With that said, let’s talk about Clay’s crystal ball forecast.
According to Clay Travis and his infinite wisdom, North Carolina State University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University are the next targets of the SEC in the next round of conference realignment. On its face, this scenario is absurd. If the SEC were to take these two schools, the net gain would be a team that has failed in spectacular fashion to win its last two BCS bowl games, and a team that everyone in its current conference regards as a sad shadow of what it could be. Before we get to the reasons why both of these teams are not realignment fodder for any conference, let’s take a look at why the SEC would want either of them.
The first thing that jumps out is Virginia Tech’s name. Ooooh. They’re in Virginia. Washington DC is close to Virginia. Maybe they deliver that DC market. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, that’s not entirely correct. The DC market will follow Maryland and the University of Virginia. Maryland is but a Metro ride away from DC, and the trip to Charlottesville from DC is roughly the same as from Atlanta to Auburn. These two schools are what determine DC’s home market. Not Virginia Tech. VPISU is in southwestern Virginia, and while they have a prominent alumni base in certain cities, they don’t control those areas for TV purposes. Just so you understand how these things work, the University of Florida’s largest alumni group outside of the state of Florida is in Atlanta. If the University of Georgia happened to play in a different conference than UF, Gator games wouldn’t be broadcast on local Atlanta channels as a matter of course, and Atlanta would not be a home market for Florida. So, while VPISU has a large alumni base in the DC/northern Virginia/Maryland area (the DMV as it’s often called), that area doesn’t belong to them.
Let’s now talk about N.C. State. Oh wouldn’t it be fantastic for the almighty SEC to make inroads into the Triangle. Let’s put that mess to rest right now. If you saw the HBO documentary “Battle for Tobacco Road”, you’d know that Duke and UNC took to the hardwood in an attempt to establish supremacy because N.C. State had staked their claim of supremacy in the state of North Carolina in football. Football pride runs deep in Raleigh, as does basketball pride. Beating close rival UNC is a primary Wolfpack goal, no matter the sport. It seems to me that if another conference wanted to extend membership to N.C. State, that conference would have to also entertain accepting the Tar Heels from Chapel Hill. And we all know that if you want UNC, you’d have to take Duke as well. In short, N.C. State is a non-starter for any conference looking to expand. There’s no case that any conference could make that would be compelling enough for N.C. State to leave the ACC. No matter the conference in which they play, basketball will always be a significant focus of the Wolfpack. N.C. State is a school with a proud basketball tradition. They have won 2 national championships, and among their alumni, they count the best player to ever play in the ACC. N.C. State wears those accomplishments as badges of honor, and nothing matters more to them than beating their foes that live just down the road in Durham and Chapel Hill. If the SEC wants a team from North Carolina, Raleigh is the wrong place to look.
Let’s talk about Virginia Tech now. This school (and in particular, their football team) is a fun study when it comes to the media. When they suffer losses on the national stage (the game against Boise State last year, the Orange Bowl against Stanford, the Sugar Bowl against Michigan), poor VPISU is pilloried. When it comes time for conference realignment talk, they’re played up as a hot commodity. It’s quite the interesting dichotomy. Either they’re good, or they’re not. It can’t be both. All of the doublespeak aside, let’s get down to the facts. When the ACC originally decided to expand to 12 teams, Boston College, Miami, and Syracuse were the three targets. Due to pressure from the state legislature in Virginia (as well as objections from Tobacco Road), the necessary votes to add these three schools to the ACC were not registered. After a revision, Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech successfully gained admission to the ACC (much to the delight of Jim Boeheim, although his delight would be short-lived). If the Virginia legislature had not exerted influence over Mr. Jefferson’s University, Virginia Tech would likely be stuck in limbo with the rest of the Big East teams that are hoping that their conference will not be pilfered, and that that their individual school won’t be left out in the cold. Say what you want about me, but it seems that if the Virginia state legislature would go to such lengths to bring Virginia Tech into the same conference as UVA, that same legislature would be very much opposed to letting that relationship dissolve.
If you happened to click the link to Clay Travis’ site further up the page, you’d have read that he thinks the University of Virginia’s future lies in the Big Ten. That’s quite the interesting theory, and it puts all of his prior thoughts into serious question. If Virginia Tech is to join the SEC, and Virginia is to join the Big Ten, well there’s just one too many rivalries to maintain. Is UVA to continue playing Virginia Tech in an interconference matchup, or are they to keep up the oldest rivalry in the South? A rivalry that predates Auburn and Georgia? A rivalry that has been played more than Army and Navy? I think you can do the math on this one. Virginia isn’t ever going anywhere, and the state legislature of Virginia isn’t in any hurry to reverse themselves on the massive stink they made to get Virginia Tech on the ballot for ACC admission.
To encapsulate my thoughts on this, this entire proposal (or forecast, as the troll has framed it) is nothing more than a flight of fantasy. Does anyone really believe that North Carolina State University will leave their Tobacco Road brethren, abandon their rivalry with UNC, abandon their Textile Bowl rivalry with Clemson (contested since 1899), and move to the SEC, where they’ll be an afterthought when it comes to decision making? Does anyone really believe that the Virginia state legislature will allow Virginia Tech to walk out on the ACC and their de facto sponsor, UVA, in search of a home in a conference that has no regard for their individual prosperity?
To sum up, let me say this. Virginia Tech is not free to make their own decisions. N.C. State will make their decisions based on what UNC and Duke do. Neither of these schools are up for poaching at this point. Further, no ACC schools are up for poaching. Go back and read that Clay Travis article again. Toward the end, he mentions that the SEC will have to petition the NCAA so that their new 16 team conference will comply with NCAA regulations. If the SEC has poached N.C. State and Virginia Tech from the ACC, and Missouri and Texas A&M from the Big XII, who exactly is going to stand with Mike Slive and support whatever proposal he may submit? Nobody. Chuck Neinas will certainly be opposed to Slive’s proposal, since Slive’s conference stole two teams from the Big XII. Jim Delany has absolutely no use for Slive and his machinations, and Larry Scott is in lockstep with Delany. If N.C. State and Virginia Tech were to leave the ACC for the blessed pastures of the SEC, would John Swofford stand with Mike Slive? Absolutely not. The only ally Mike Slive could possibly have would be John Marinatto of the Big East, and that’s like having no ally at all.
Since the beginning of conference realignment, everyone everywhere has been focused on best case scenarios, and pie in the sky outcomes that were based on ideal designs. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation won’t allow for those outcomes. Mike Slive needs a strong voice to second his motions. That voice is, and always has been, John Swofford. Slive has always partnered with Swofford, and together they have pushed NCAA athletics into an unprecedented era of money and exposure. Slive and Swofford have worked together for mutual benefit, and there’s no reason to believe that their working relationship will disintegrate. Clay Travis seems to think otherwise. Given the facts, who do you believe?