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James talks about conference expansion

(Originally published on the BBS)

Let's Look at this Logically

If you take as granted that Major Conference Sports is all about money, then you need to look at the money situation. As others have commented, the ACC pulls in more money per school than any other conference. If you are going to add teams, they've got to sweeten this pot to at least the extent that they replace the money that they'd receive in distributions. Some ways this happens:

  • Football Conference Championship Game
  • Extra NCAA Teams in basketball
  • Extra major bowl teams
  • Extra television markets

Meanwhile, there are extra costs:

  • Cultural: The ACC if it expanded to the size a football championship game would need would lose the double round robin in basketball. Keep in mind that if Duke and UNC end up in the same division, the other division loses a significant home game each year.
  • Contributions: This is trickier. Currently, ACC Tournament tickets are split 9 ways. I would suspect that ACC Tournament tickets are one of the main reasons why people contribute to athletic booster clubs in large levels. If you start to split 12 ways, there may be some who feel forced to pay more for the same tickets, starting a bidding war. But, similarly, there are those who don't make the cut who may feel the need to contribute large sums is no longer needed, and cut back. I don't know how this would turn out, and I don't know if anyone does. It is one hell of a risk.
  • Football revenue: Unlike basketball, football doesn't sell out in every arena. So, when big names visit, ticket sales are higher and revenue is higher. If a team has only one cut every four years instead of every two, then that could hurt financially.

Ok, with this in mind, how do the different mentioned teams stand for entry?

With Spurrier's resignation, it will be interesting to see how Florida recovers. Prior to Spurrier, Florida had three major bowl bids, the Orange Bowl in 1967, and the Sugar in 1966 and 1974. So, pending the results of the new coach search, Florida is of neutral value in football.

Florida has no basketball reputation prior to the last decade. However, they have weathered a coaching change and have made the Final Four under two coaches. I'd give that a guarded positive.

With Florida State in the conference, Florida does not add significant television markets

With Florida most likely in the same division of football, this would create a have and havenot divisions for football. Havenot division members are likely to be opposed.

Overall: Very risky.

Kentucky has no notable reputation in football, and is not likely to add interest from bowls. On the other hand, they would certainly add to ACC basketball and bring in a new television market. The question: Does this balance the revenue loss? They would almost certainly need to be in a different division from Duke and/or UNC.

There is a cultural question of Kentucky's previous ethics and reputation; but we still have Clemson and NC State, so that can be overcome.

Overall: Ricky, but plausible.

Miami has definitely weathered the storm for football (which may be a good sign for Florida) coaching changes and is a definite power. Basketball, they're another Florida State, though, and they add no television markets. As they'd be in FSU's division, there's the have/havenot problem again.

Overall: Not a chance.

Notre Dame
Notre Dame brings a lot to the table. They've got a good history for football, they definitely would bring a larger market, if they were willing to share. (Notre Dame football remains independent so Notre Dame does not need to share the massive amount of television revenue with the hoi polloi of the Big East.) They're fairly unremarkable in basketball, though.

Culturally, they'd be balanced against Florida State in football, and might be palatable that way.

Overall: If Notre Dame joins in all sports, and the NBC football contract is shared with the conference, they would be a winner. If they insist on the same deal with the ACC they currently have with the Big East, they have no chance of admission.

Syracuse is an interesting case, they would bring some benefit in both football and basketball, and would bring new markets, although New York City is not a big Syracuse town. They wouldn't present the cultural issues the southern football powers present, and with Notre Dame could balance the addition of a southern power.

Overall: A reasonable candidate, but would what they bring really balance out the losses for the existing schools?

Virginia Tech
OK, they're hot in football now, but they're hardly a long term national power. They're definitely not much in basketball, and they bring no new markets to the table. The only argument I've seen in their favor is that they're a natural rival for Virginia. Meanwhile, you don't hear people arguing for the inclusion of Georgia and South Carolina...

Overall: No chance. Worst candidate of the six, by far.

As stand-alone candidates, only Notre Dame really makes a convincing argument for expanding to 10, but what about combinations to reach 12? Despite the cultural arguments against, Notre Dame's football revenue would certainly be enough to help counter the financial losses of the extra splits in bowl, NCAA, and television revenue. But who of the other two would make decent additional candidates?

As mentioned, the two would counterbalance the loss of home football games, with a southern division of Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, +2, and a northern division of Notre Dame, Syracuse, +4. (I figure some gerrymandering to keep the Tobacco road teams together.) However, this really does not do much to raise the ACC basketball profile, and I think it loses for that reason.

The southern football conference would be quite strong, but would Notre Dame in the north counter the revenue loss? It is possible, with these divisions: South: Florida, FSU, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Kentucky, Virginia North: Duke, North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest, Maryland, Notre Dame.

Kentucky and Florida certainly add in basketball, so the basketball side would still produce money.

The real uncertainty is the political effect on the SEC. We'd have raided their best basketball and one of their best football teams, and I suspect there would be a tremendous amount of bad blood for that reason. That might be enough to prevent it from happening, but I'd argue it would be a better match.