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OK, we need some way to get a pie chart or graph out to try and make sense of the comings and goings in the four conferences most involved with our local teams - - The Big East, The football Big East soon to be called the America 12, the Atlantic 10 and the ACC.
This conference shuffling may never end – or at the very least it feels like it may never end as every time a conference loses a team it will look to another conference to steal another team back.
Case in point – the Atlantic 10 is about to get raided and will in turn look again to raid the CAA which will have to find a smaller conference (can you say NEC) to try and pick a few teams out of, etc., etc.
People ask me all the time about it and the best I can tell you is that the only thing certain is uncertainty.
The ACC looks solid – but if Maryland is somehow able to win this lawsuit against it and get out of paying the $50 million exit fee, well, all bets off because Florida State and Clemson – the two most attractive football programs – will become virtual free agents and if they leave the conference begins to fall apart because there is talk that North Carolina and Duke are on the Big Ten radar.
So the best I can tell you is this ---
1.) These moves have become less and less about making competitive leagues and more and more about money, TV sets and markets. How else do you explain Pitt and Syracuse – and not West Virginia and Louisville – as being the first two schools that were plucked from the Big East by the ACC in this latest go around? How else do you explain Rutgers – who barely competed in the Big East and never once won the Big East title or even a share of it – and Maryland – who barely competed in the ACC – being plucked by the Big Ten? It makes no sense other than – those schools provide TV markets and basketball programs that get to the NCAA Tournament and thus bring lots of money to the coffers. So when you hear about future moves – ask yourself if it makes sense money-wise before you believe it.
2.) The basketball conference mess was created by the football mess and that is always going to be the case. It is why Charlotte is back in Conference USA, Temple is back in the, well America 12 and why UMass is thinking of leaving the A-10. It is why the Big East left the America 12 – because the Big East got tired of football waving the flag for the conference.
3.) The Atlantic 10, I fear, is closing in on the endangered species list as I think it could take some MAJOR major hits here in the basketball shuffle. We know that Butler, Xavier, Charlotte and Temple are gone and there is talk St. Louis, UMass and Dayton are on their way out as well. If that happens – what is left? A lot of schools like Duquesne, Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure who have had marginal success at best and the league probably becomes a one-bid league annually, which will hurt revenue. VCU I know helps but the replacement options are all from the CAA – George Mason, Drexel, Hofstra – nice programs who have had success but it isn’t like they are going to raise the league’s profile or grab multiple bids each year. This has to be the best year – or one of the best years in league history – with Butler, Xavier, Dayton, Temple, VCU, St. Louis – this was a great league this year. Alas, unfortunately it could all fall apart in a matter of two years and that could help Duquesne on one hand – a much easier league to navigate to the top of – but hurt Duquesne in another – less money from TV contracts and NCAA berths in league coffers and less prestige.
So where do we stand for 2014?
Here is, for the most part, what each league will look like in 2014 (with some guesses at 2015)
Florida State, Clemson, Miami, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke, Boston College, Pitt, Maryland, Syracuse and Notre Dame (everything but football).
Connecticut, Cincinnati, Temple, USF, Memphis, UCF, Tulane, Houston, SMU, Rutgers and Louisville
Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Providence, Seton Hall, St John’s, Villanova, Butler, Xavier, Creighton.
St. Louis, Duquesne, St. Bonaventure, VCU, LaSalle, UMass, St. Joe’s, Richmond, Dayton, George Washington, Fordham and Rhode Island
That is what we think these leagues will look like in 2014 (there could be some more wrangling but as of now, that is what we are looking at)
Then in 2015 there could be more movement and this what we think these leagues will look like….
Will lose Maryland and gain Louisville and remain at 14 teams (15 in every sport but football).
Will lose Rutgers (Big Ten) and Louisville (ACC) and will gain Tulsa and Navy and either Southern Miss or UMass to get back to 12 teams.
Will likely add Dayton and St. Louis to get to 12 teams.
If Dayton, St. Louis and UMass all leave the A-10 will be left with only 9 teams – and that lineup isn’t exactly inspiring. There is no doubt the league would add – or try to add – George Mason to get to 10 but then there is a decision to be made. Is there an advantage to going to 12 if the next two aren’t going to add anything or very little in terms of revenue?
A great question and one with not a great answer --- does, say Hofstra and Drexel add anything to the Atlantic 10? I’m not sure – the leftover league has one “lead dog” VCU and a lot of teams who have underachieved for most of the past 20 years.
Again, this could all change if Maryland wins its lawsuit against the ACC because then FSU and Clemson become free agents but as long as there is still that $50 million exit fee to deal with, the ACC will stay intact and be in good shape for the future.
Just as an aside --- if I had to rank these leagues in terms of basketball conferences I think it is tougher than you think:
Clearly the weakest league is the Atlantic 10 as that league has VCU and.....
The strongest league is probably the ACC but the Big East is still pretty strong as well.
The America 12 has UConn, Cincy, Temple, Memphis and a big drop.
So in short - I rank them like this 1.) ACC 2.) Big East 3.) America 12 and 4.) Atlantic 10
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