By Ed McGranahan.
The ACC has reached a crossroad in its future as a significant player in college football.
Losing Maryland is a symptom of bigger problems. If the league doesn’t drop some of its Tobacco Road arrogance, it may lose its horses to leagues that understand football – not basketball – drive college athletics.
And, yes, we’re talking Clemson.
Unless the ACC secures Florida State and signs a significant football program as the 14th member, Clemson could be on the next train.
Florida State has not been quiet about its dissatisfaction with the ACC. When the league called for a vote on the $50 million poison pill, Florida State and Maryland voted against it.
What’s Maryland doing now?
Despite the noise earlier this year that FSU and Clemson would bolt for the SEC, and speculation placing Jimbo Fisher in an SEC program by next season – Auburn? – other things may be afoot.
There’s talk in Ohio that the Seminoles might be an attractive member for the Big Ten, which seems intent on further expanding its footprint. If Rutgers is coveted for its geography, think of the numbers the Seminoles could deliver.
Last spring a study was commissioned to determine which schools would be the best additions should the league chose to expand further. Once upon a time Pittsburgh and Syracuse were blue collar tough football schools, but that’s ancient history.
Notre Dame had already been in the pipeline for a couple of years when Clemson president Jim Barker assured me less than a year ago that any additional expansion would include schools with solid, competitive football programs.
The study delivered to the Clemson Board of Trustees, Baker and the ACC recommended Louisville as a solid candidate. Louisville would bring not only an entertaining brand of football, it would also be a strong player in the ACC’s favorite sport – basketball – and it would be fiscally viable. Louisville has an athletic budget that would rank in the top three in the ACC exceeding Clemson’s.
The ACC turned up its nose because Louisville didn’t fit the academic template the ACC requires. It was the same point that kept West Virginia from joining the league. Imagine the further glee of Mountaineer fans after the Orange Bowl.
Backlash last night after the Maryland announcement could be construed as an indictment of the league and Commissioner John Swofford.
If Florida State chooses to leave – and Clemson follows – the league would be a shell of itself. Once Coach K retires, even basketball’s relevance will diminish.
Maybe it’s time for the ACC to quickly rethink its direction and leadership.