The Winds of Change …

Now Playing: Limelight, by Rush. This is the only Rush song I can stand, and I actually kinda like it. “All the world’s indeed a stage, And we are merely players, Performers and portrayers, Each another’s audience, Outside the gilded cage.”

OK, this one is about sports. And money. And how Money trumps tradition and everything else these days. And how crappy that is.

The Atlantic Coast Conference will never be what it was, back when its footprint – and that word’s all the rage these days – extended from Maryland to South Carolina. Back when it had higher admission standards than nearly every other conference (standards which chased South Carolina out of the conference – go figure). Back when it played football but knew its place. Back when it was happy to get one football game a week on television. Back when basketball drove the ACC train.

Make no mistake. I love football. I’m so looking forward to this year’s Tar Heel team, which I think is ready to kick some major butt.

But I have a sinking feeling that everything’s about to change.

Blame it on Texas if you want. Or the Big 10. Or the Pac-(choose a number). Or the Southeastern Conference.

But the real blame goes to the  Love of Money.

As you may know, college sports conferences are getting a makeover. Nebraska has left the Big 12 to join the Big 10, giving that conference, despite its name, 12 members. Colorado has left the Big 12 to join the Pac-(for now) 10, which has 11 members as of this writing.

Nobody thinks the movement is over.

The 600-pound gorilla left out there is Texas. The Big 10 – the one with 12 schools – wants it. The Pac-(pick a number) wants it (enough to take Texas A&M, Oklahoma and a few others to give it 16 teams. The Big 12 – the one with 10 teams – wants it enough to make sure it continues to make more money than any other conference member (most conferences split money on a more or less equal basis). The Southeastern Conference wants it (apparently more than Texas wants it).

What’s the attraction? Televisions. Texas has a ton of ’em. And each set increases a conferences take from broadcasting games.

So what does this have to do with the ACC?

Texas could be the domino that causes the other major conferences to expand to 16 teams. If that happens, it’s Katie-bar-the-door on tradition, rivalries and conferences that make sense.

What does this mean for the ACC? Who knows? Early on, there was speculation that Florida State, Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech (or Virginia Tech) could go to the SEC (which pays more money to its members because of a richer TV contract). But there are convincing arguments that the SEC doesn’t want those schools (which are among the best football schools in the conference – and the SEC is first-and-foremost a football conference), which would neither extend its footprint (there’s that word again) nor add more TV sets, because the SEC already has schools in those three states.

There also are rumors that Maryland is being courted by the Big 10 (the one with 12 schools), because it would bring the Washington and Baltimore television markets). Doesn’t seem likely, but the payoff could be big for the Terps, so who knows?

But the scenario that most affects me concerns my beloved Tar Heels. There is some speculation that the Southeastern Conference wants UNC, Duke and Virginia to join. That would extend its footprint (told you) and add more televisions. It also would separate UNC from N.C. State, Wake Forest, Maryland, Clemson and some of its other old partners. That’s hard to take. Much as I kid State fans, I’d really miss being in a conference with them.

What do I think? I think it’s unlikely that UNC would leave the ACC. I hope it doesn’t. I hope none of its teams leave (though I wouldn’t care if Boston College did and Syracuse replaced it). If Carolina goes, I’d rather it join the Big 10 (the one with 12 members) because of superior academics and what I believe is a better long-range television deal (the Big 10 – the one with 12 teams – has its own network, which seems to be a pretty smart way of doing business). I mean, if you’re going to sell your soul, strike the best deal you can. I hope my alma mater chooses wisely. They may have more trouble getting out of the deal than Joe Hardy did. And I hope it leaves only if UVA comes along.

But boy, I’d miss beating the Woofies.

“For God’s sake build not your faith upon Tradition, ’tis as rotten as a rotten Post.” _ Nicholas Culpeper


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