According to the Boston Globe, Miami
is in, and Donna Shalala will meet with some Big East presidents to cover
her political bases.
They aren't giving up just yet. But as it happens, ACC expansion may
be just the tip of the iceberg.
There's a chance that the major conferences could either gang up to roll the
NCAA, or else
leave the NCAA altogether. With about 60 teams, if the other big
conferences all expanded to 12, they'd have enough schools to do it, and enough
athletic power to pull it off. This would totally destroy the NCAA
Tournament of course, and it would probably lead to a rival tournament, which
would make life interesting, to say the least.
We still have a lot of qualms about expansion, but we do recall someone - Lee
Fowler? - referring to it as a defensive maneuver. This sort of change
might be what he had in mind. Let's just consider this possibility: the
Big East falls apart anyway. Say Miami wanted to cut travel costs and
concentrate on football. They led a drive to recruit, say, FSU, Florida,
Georgia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, and maybe Auburn. That would effectively
gut the ACC, the Big East, wound the SEC, and set up a very powerful football
conference. Or you could just simplify it and have, say, Miami, BC,
Syracuse, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Pitt go after FSU, Tech, Clemson,
Maryland, Penn State, and maybe Florida.
You can see where this is going, and, frankly, there were rumblings not too
long ago about the southern schools in the ACC bailing out if things didn't
change, though that was in a previous environment.
If it turns out that the major conferences are dictating terms to everyone
else, then it's probably better to be one of the major players. The
argument that it's all about money, well of course it is. But it's not
strictly about profit. On some level, for better or worse, Title IX plays
into this, because the cash cows are men's basketball and football, and with
football being not just extremely expensive but also involved in a so-called
"arms race," money has to come from somewhere. With all due
respect to the astonishing gains made by women's athletics since Title IX came
into being, not one sport is capable of producing revenue. Football and men's
basketball still pull the train.
It's an odd juxtaposition for Miami, with such a powerful football program,
to have lost money last year on athletics, but they did. Miami one
of about three programs (counting Notre Dame and Texas) having the potential to
reshape conferences around the country by moving to a new league. They're
not the only program losing money, either. Lots of programs are.
Whatever happens after this is over, it's going to be very hard to discount
the ACC. There will be at least a pair of BCS quality teams, for as long
as that lasts, and any reforms or structural changes in post-season football or
basketball will get strong conference input.
The alternative? Possible raids on the conference, falling to a
second-division league, great uncertainty. Very reluctantly, we have come
to believe that the conference, which usually thinks well ahead of the curve,
has found the least bad solutions to a number of vexing problems. Traditions are
important, but there comes a time when they are either outdated or
crippling. It would be great if none of the grim scenarios come to
pass, but the odds of everything breaking our way are pretty slim.