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Putting aside for the moment the wisdom of expansion as it applies to conference rivalries, the most emphatic point in favor of ACC expansion is the new media contract: ESPN has apparently agreed to pay the ACC $1.86 billion over the next 12 years. While it's not as rich as the deals the SEC and Big Ten have, it's pretty darn good.

It works out to $155 million per year and takes each school from 5.6 million to around $12.9 million. Generally speaking, doubling your income is a pretty good year. Or dozen.

There are still some questions. It's not clear yet how Internet rights will be handled, for instance. Obviously you'd expect ESPN to control the streaming rights, but there's a lot more that can be done to generate income online.

The other question which hasn't been answered yet is how thiswill play into the general theme of expansion around the country. The Big Ten has supposedly targeted the Big 12 and the Big East, though some have scenarios see them pursuing ACC teams. There are also scenarios which see the Southeastern Conference pursuing the ACC's better football schools.

All of that now is probably at least somewhat less likely. This contract gives the ACC traction and puts the conference on very solid ground.

Keep in mind this was accomplished despite a sense that the conference is down in basketball, it's strength, and that football expansion has not yet paid off.

But things may be about to change on both fronts. In basketball, Virginia, Wake Forest, Boston College and Clemson have all made solid hires in the last 12 months. Given that three of the four programs have struggled to a greater or lesser extent over the last few years and you can imagine the difference that this could make. Toss in the improvement at Florida State, the likely improvement at North Carolina State and Miami, and Georgia Tech is arguably the only school with serious long-term issues.

And in football, Georgia Tech has profited from hiring Paul Johnson, Miami and Florida State appear to be on the rebound, Dabo Swinney is a promising coach for Clemson, Wake Forest has played amazingly well in the last few seasons, particular considering their limitations, and there's reason for optimism at all three Triangle schools. Tom O'Brien is building a solid program although it's taking longer than State fans want. UNC appears to have a dominant defense returning and will make some serious noise this season and beyond. And even Duke, a punchline no longer under coach David Cutcliffe, has earned a great deal of respect for being a tough-minded football program which is not easy to beat.

Virginia Tech has performed very well since joining the ACC and nothing appears ready to change. Virginia made a very smart hire when they signed Richmond's Mike London. The guy is a heckuva coach. Maryland struggled last season and may do so for a while yet. And as for Boston College, that's a school with a nice football tradition. They'll be okay.

In short, while the worries over the economy had cast a cloud over media negotiations, things worked out there pretty well. We're optimistic and certainly homers when it comes to Duke and the ACC, but right now, everyone has to feel pretty good.

The next question is what will ESPN do with their new trophy? Obviously they have a lot of commitments already, with professional sports, the SEC, and any number of things. The plan appears to be to farm some stuff out to Raycom, and the whole idea of the Sunday night games, whether it's on Fox or ESPN, may be done. For much of the season of course, Sunday on ESPN will be defined by the NFL, but they have multiple networks and they can move things around, so maybe they'll keep the idea, or maybe not.

We grabbed a couple of weeks out of this past February, pretty much randomly, just to see how things had been done. ESPN broadcasts are grayed out, Fox is bolded, and the Raycom games constitute the rest.

One thing we would expect would be that ESPN, given their interest in such things, will try to schedule as many rivalry games as possible. We believe that Virginia Tech and Virginia are both on the uptick and that those games may well move to ESPN.

And if State continues to improve, there may well be pressure to get more games between Tobacco Road teams on the schedule. It's hard to imagine for instance that ESPN would be happy with one game a year if Duke and State were both top 10 teams.

We're quite certain that many scenarios have been discussed, including expansion, ways to get more and different games on TV, and possibly even something like realigning ACC basketball into southern, central and northern groups of four. It's entirely speculative, but we can assure you that many things have been discussed. Perhaps more likely is the notion of the ACC expanding the conference schedule. Coaches will hate it, but when TV pays the bill they call the tunes.

01/31/10 Miami 82, Virginia Tech 75 Coral Gables, Fla. RAYCOM (XM 190)
Clemson 62, Maryland 53 Clemson, S.C. FSN (XM 190)
Virginia 75, North Carolina 60 Chapel Hill, N.C. FSN (XM 190)
02/02/10 Wake Forest 62, Miami 53 Winston-Salem, N.C. ESPN2 (XM 190)
02/03/10 Virginia 59, NC State 47 Charlottesville, Va. ESPNU (XM 190)
02/04/10 Duke 86, Georgia Tech 67 Durham, N.C. ESPN2 (XM 190)
Maryland 71, Florida State 67 Tallahassee, Fla. RAYCOM (XM 190)
Virginia Tech 74, North Carolina 70 Blacksburg, Va. RAYCOM (XM 191)
02/06/10 Wake Forest 64, Virginia 61 (OT) Charlottesville, Va. RAYCOM (XM 190)
Duke 66, Boston College 63 Chestnut Hill, Mass. ESPN (XM 190)
Georgia Tech 73, NC State 71 Atlanta, Ga. RAYCOM (XM 190)
Virginia Tech 70, Clemson 59 Blacksburg, Va. RAYCOM (XM 191)
Florida State 71, Miami 65 Tallahassee, Fla. ESPNU (XM 190)
02/07/10 Maryland 92, North Carolina 71 College Park, Md. FSN (XM 190)
02/09/10 Wake Forest 92, Boston College 85 Winston-Salem, N.C. RSN (XM 190)
02/10/10 Clemson 77, Florida State 67 Clemson, S.C. ESPN2 (XM 190)
Miami 64, Georgia Tech 62 Coral Gables, Fla. (XM 191)
Virginia @ Maryland - ppd. College Park, Md.
Duke 64, North Carolina 54 Chapel Hill, N.C. RAYCOM/ESPN (XM 190/191)
Virginia Tech 72, NC State 52 Raleigh, N.C. ESPNU/ESPN (XM 192)
2/13/10 Clemson 74, Miami 66 Clemson, S.C. RSN (XM 190)
Duke 77, Maryland 56 Durham, N.C. CBS (XM 191)
North Carolina 74, NC State 61 Chapel Hill, N.C. ESPN (XM 190)
Virginia Tech 61, Virginia 55 Blacksburg, Va. RAYCOM (XM 191)no
Wake Forest 75, Georgia Tech 64 Winston-Salem, N.C. RAYCOM (XM 190)
02/14/10 Florida State 62, Boston College 47 Tallahassee, Fla. FSN (XM 190)
02/15/10 Maryland 85, Virginia 66 College Park, Md. (XM 190)
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