Now, there are eleven. Eleven being the operative word in that sentence. Eleven is a nice number, a good number for players on either side of a football. It’s about the right number on a soccer pitch for guys in the same color jersey, but it’s not the right number for teams in a conference. Especially a football conference. That’s why eleven teams in the ACC is a bogus number, a temporary number of teams until they figure out who is the best fit as the twelfth team. Twelve is the right number. It balances the schedule, it allows rivalries to develop and it enables the conference to have a championship football game at the end of the season. That’s millions and millions of dollars, and in this case, again, money talks.
So who is the twelfth team? Louisville, East Carolina, USF, UCF? If the league is just interested in adding numbers, any one of those schools will do. If they’re interested in keeping the travel budgets down, any of those will do as well. But if the ACC is trying preserve their reputation as the “Tiffany” conference, they might want a bigger name, a marquee school, stolen from another conference. Florida? Georgia? Kentucky? All of those upgrade the conference in just about every way. The ACC will have 12 teams, it’s just a matter of time.
Is there any intrigue involved in these conference switches? Not really. The driving force is money, and when it comes to conferences and money, bigger is better. The Big East was created as a basketball conference to begin with, an outgrowth of the old ECAC. Miami’s rise to prominence in football, and Virginia Tech’s commitment to upgrade their program made the conference a bigger football player, but those two couldn’t drag the Big East up among the elite. So the ‘Canes decided to listen to other offers, and needed somebody to come along. Boston College and Syracuse were their first choices, but they couldn’t work all of the details out. So Virginia Tech got the call, and happily, the Hokies went along. Miami was driving the bus on this deal though, working out a way to move from the Big East to the ACC. The ‘Canes thought, and rightfully so, they were losing some of their clout by staying in the Big East. Football’s their game, and the Big East wasn’t all of a sudden going to become this powerhouse football conference, without convincing Notre Dame to be a football member as well.
It’s a baby step toward what eventually will be a football “super conference” where teams will play by the same rules. There’s no reason Florida should be playing Vanderbilt or Florida State should be continually banging Wake Forest year after year. Schools interested in playing big time football should be playing each other, and Miami’s move is a precursor to that. It might be 15 years or so down the road but that’s where it’s headed. And eventually, they’ll all get into the same conference, and have a playoff at the end of the year to determine a national champion on the field. Instead of a vote.