ACC poaching of the Big East: Dirty pool in the NCAA?

It’s official. As of 4 PM today, the University of Miami has agreed to abandon the Big East Conference and join the ACC. For those of you unfamiliar with this saga, the story can be found on ESPN. I’ll also offer a recap of the events.

Before I do that, there is a contingent on this board that is so against college athletics that they will not see anything “great” in this debate. I kindly ask those of you who hold this view to move right along. Conference realignment means millions of dollars in lost revenue to the remaining Big East schools. That alone is enough reason to debate this. There’s also an interesting lawsuit involved, so kindly hold your tongues if all you want to post is a broadside against college football.

Now the recap with all the Machiavellian twists and turns. ACC presidents voted on May 13 to expand their nine team conference to twelve teams, largely so they would be eligible for a lucrative championship game. Three days later, they announced they were considering Miami, Boston College, and Syracuse - all three are/were Big East teams. A lawsuit was filed in Conneticut alledging that Miami and Boston College had participated in a conspiracy to weaken the Big East and have done irreperable harm to the other schools in the conference, who have spent millions on their football programs based on the presumed loyalty of the other schools.

Six weeks later, the ACC presidents decided not to extend formal invitations to Boston College and Syracuse. The two spurned schools suddenly grew an intense loyalty to their conference and headed the effort to keep Miami in the Big East. To further make things interesting, the ACC issued a suprising formal invitation to Virginia Tech last week, who has indicated that they will accept. Boston College was removed as a defendant in the lawsuit and Virginia Tech was removed as a plaintiff. The lawsuit’s a freakin’ chinese fire drill.

Here’s a few questions to start the debate: Does one conference have the “right” under NCAA rules to prey on another conference, rendering the weaker conference near unable to support itself? Should it? Can the Big East survive with only six teams? If the conspiracy charge holds water, should Boston College still be excused merely because it didn’t realize any benefits from (indeed, may have been harmed by) its participation in the conspiracy?

It’s a free country. Cain’t nobody say 'totherwise, not least the idjuts at the NCAA **

Not for long. Expect them to raid CUSA.

I don’t think NCAA rules cover conference realignment. I believe it’s all contract law. I think breach and various reliance arguments are being used in the litigation. I searched “NCAA rules conference realignment” and didn’t find anything germane. I don’t offhand know all the NCAA rules.

It looks like super conferences are the wave of the future. I would guess that what’s left of the Big East will join with some other conference, or disband. The MAC? South Florida might join in. Call the new super conference the Mid East Conference? MEC? :dubious: It would make internet searches interesting, college football, diplomacy, college football, diplomacy…

Well, it certainly not the first time this has happened, nor will it probably be the last. For example, when the Big 8 expanded into the Big 12 by poaching the strongest teams from the old Southwestern Conference, the SWC ended up disappearing. Back in the late '90s the stronger WAC schools broke off to form their own conference, the Mountain West, complaining that the WAC was too far flung geographically and had too many marginal Division I schools. The WAC is still plugging along, but has zero national visibility now, while the Mountain West may now be in a position to get into the BCS game if the Big East lapses into irrelavence.

Unless the Big East somehow can win Miami back by force, I think the the football side of the conference will eventually wither away. With Miami & Virginia Tech gone the conference goes from a weak league with a few good teams to Conference USA w/ a BCS slot. (and how long will the BCS let them keep that…) Look for the Big Ten(11) to poach Pitt so that they become the Big Ten(12) and can have their own championship game too. (How you split the Big Ten(12) into two divisions is another great debate… :))

Conference USA would be the biggest loser in this game, as the Big East will naturally look towards Louisville (decent football tradition), Cincinnati (next to no football tradition), & Marquette (basketball only) to keep itself going…on the other hand…that’s a pretty good basis for a basketball league…

My school (UCF) was all ecstatic 2 years ago when we got into the MAC … now both we and Marshall would be great fits for the Big East

As you can tell by my handle, I’m an interested party. I welcome Miami to the ACC, and humbly ask the Hurricanes to keep the score against my Tar Heel gridders respectable - try to keep the margin around 60…at halftime. :D.

That said, I think this was the natural evolution of college sports, especially football (as distasteful and Machiavellian as it seems). In the case of the ACC/Big East imbroglio, I think the ACC operated from an “destroy, or be destroyed.” I think if we hadn’t pursued expansion in the Big East, another conference would have poached off us.

I really haven’t followed the matter closely enough to answer your questions intelligently, so I’ll defer. But I agree they are worthy of debate.

I will say this about the whole expansion controversy - at least it exposed the hypocrisy that is college athletics. I love the games, I love the pageantry, I love the bands, all that. I love lazy Saturdays wasted in front of the tube. I even like gambling on it, as screwed up as that is. The cost of that is universities’ prostituting - everyone does it, but some do it more than others, while others have enough tradition and brand recognition that they don’t have to do it as much.

The requirement for being a fan of a college team (hoops or FB) these days is the ability to suspend your disbelief. As long as the players aren’t complete academic or social basketcases, then it’s “just win, baby.”

Good. The NCAA is the most despicable monopoly in existence. It essentially acts to prevents extremely poor but talented young players from earning salaries for all their efforts, despite their work earning the schools outrageous amounts of money. It’s no different than car companies getting together to keep prices high.

The idea that there is some level playing ground of athletic just found naturally amongst kids with some degree academic acheivement is utterly farcical. They should just pay these kids to play for teams (they bring in far beyond just the cost of a free tuition).

You really should read up on the history of the Big East. Like they never invited some team from another conference.


Being a huge ACC fan (Go Terps!), I’m very excited for the two new arrivals. Hey, the ACC may finally be a football powerhouse now! Even though the ACC is by far the greatest basketball conference in existance, we’ve always been lacking in football; the only consistent team has been FSU, who’s relatively new (11 years, I think).

As far as their “right”, the schools can do whatever they want. I read that the NCAA Prez specifically said he won’t be involved (he has no jurisdiction, anyway). I think it is perfectly legitimate action by both schools, since it was their choice and theirs alone. Obviously they realized that they should head out before the ship sinks. The ACC intends on grabbing at least one more team next year, and there’s a good chance they are more Big East teams, if any are left of course.

I did find it fishy that VT opposed the annexation of BC and Syracuse, but when offered, they enthusiastically accepted. I don’t think it was a conspiracy as Big East presidents are shouting, but it was a little smarmy.

My only concern is that this will lead to more team-grabbing, and maybe a few leagues collapsing. But Kirk Herbstreit thinks it has been inevitable all along.. It would suck if we had 2-3 Uber Divisions, but it should work out.

Yes, they have the right. No, the NCAA should govern this - it’s an issue for all of college sports. This episode has done nothing but make them all look like greedy weasels (not that that’s news, but they’ve been generally able to keep it hidden). Further, the concentration of conferences has an effect on the business of all of them - face it, the Big East is no longer a truly major conference and can’t become one again by raiding other conferences further down the food chain (who will turn around and do the same, etc.).

VT’s interest was in geographic fit and in building a rivalry with UVa, obviously. Their inclusion in the deal resulted from the governor’s threat to have UVa veto the offer if VT wasn’t in it. But, since VT is a football power, the ACC wasn’t too unwilling, even though it meant stiffing the Yankees.

What happens next, failing stronger NCAA rules? The Big 10 will make one last offer to Notre Dame, and failing that, will smell the Big East’s blood and take Pitt, WVU, or maybe 'Cuse to get to 12. The ACC will bestow their favors on UCF or maybe USF to get to 12, and add a homecoming opponent for everyone else. The Big East will mend relations with BC and Cuse and poach CUSA, maybe the MAC, but will be stuck in a permanent second-tier non-BCS slot with the likes of Mountain West.

Although I think it would suck if they focused too much on football and not enough on basketball. It’s still going to be what they’re know for, and they shouldn’t blow it. Miami basketball is pretty good, although I don’t think this move does much for the conference’s strength in that sport.

So you guys think this is going to have ramifications throughout all (or many) of the conferences? For example, ACC takes from Big East, Big East takes from Conference USA, etc. all the way down the line?

Dirty pool? If the ACC taking two teams from the Big East is considered “dirty pool” wait and watch what the Big East is about to do to Conference USA. It will be Conference USA that is the big loser after the dust has settled and it will be the Big East that delivers the coup de grace. Look for the Big East to add Louisville and either Cincinnatti or South Florida. South Florida is a candidate because the Big East will want to maintain a recruiting presence in football rich Florida and because South Florida is considered a raising power. The Big East will probably also go after Marquette and add them to the basketball only side of their conference. After this the remaining CUSA teams will attempt to remain in the bombed out conference or, as has been rumored, CUSA teams in the west like Texas Christian and Houston may join the WAC.

As I read in a recent article – you might as well start spelling “Conference USA” as “Conference R.I.P.”. I shed no tears for the Big East.

This confused me. By my reckoning, USF would already be favored over Wake, Duke, or North Carolina, at home, on homecoming.

USF was the second ranked mid-major last year. I would agree that mediocre big conference schools would be favored over USF. Duke and Wake have been trying to achieve mediocre for a number of years. Pretty much since Steve left.

Homecoming opponent? Hardly.

UCF lost to Syracuse, Penn State and Marshall last year by a combined 11 points. The only teams in the ACC clearly superior to UCF in football right now and over the next few years would be FSU, and the new guys Miami and VT. USF isn’t far behind.

Of course, both would be flat-out embarrassed by ACC basketball, which is why I don’t think either would be a good fit, as well as the fact that both cities (Tampa and Orlando) have more of a cultural connection with the northeast than with the Carolina-Virginia area. They would, however, fit very well in the New Big East.

I think a more logical fit as a 12th team for the ACC would be West Virginia. Solid traditions in football and basketball, and it is geographically contiguous. (One big objection Duke and UNC had to the idea of adding BC and Syracuse was all the extra travel for non-revenue sports. Wouldn’t be a problem with W. Va.) The only downside is that WV isn’t a big TV market (part of the reason BC and 'Cuse were initial targets).

I don’t think the ACC would add USF or UCF. Both Florida State and Miami would strongly oppose any such move. Why? Because elevating USF or UCF to the level of the ACC would give them an added legitimacy in recruiting, which might erode FSU and Miami’s in-state recruiting base.

East Carolina is lobbying to get into the ACC, but I don’t think they’d get the votes. The non-NC ACC schools are already peevish about the amount of conference clout concentrated in NC. (Maybe the Big East would be interested?)

I am amused by the hypocrisy of the Big East. If they didn’t think it was possible to lose Miami and Virginia Tech, why was there an opt-out clause in the conference contracts of those schools?

The Big East’s contract with the BCS expires in 2005. Unless they add some football schools, they can kiss the BCS goodbye. It will be interesting to watch Big East officials, after all the righteous indignation they have been spouting, do a 180 and try to cherry-pick CUSA in an effort to remain viable.

The lawsuit is a non-starter. It’s a free country, and Miami and VT were within their contractual rights to leave the Big East. (The NCAA does not exercise any control over conference affiliations.)

With Miami and FSU in the ACC, I can’t help but wonder about a potential UF* jump to the ACC. Maybe Georgia also, thus turning their other biggest game (GT) into a conference game.

I agree that USF and UCF would be excellent choices for the Big East. That conference needs football teams fast.

*Gator here. Just speculation. Not even a rumor, unless we start it.

Two less teams for Rutgers to lose to each year (combined record in last 9 years - 0-18-0). That’s a positive in my book.

Here’s what I don’t understand: adding VT and Miami takes the ACC to eleven teams, one team short of a conference championship and one team short of the premeire television contracts.

At the same time, there are at least three highly anticipated football rivalries within the Big East which, if preserved, could have significantly enhanced the ACC’s exposure: Miami/Syracuse, Virginia Tech/West Virginia, and Syracuse/West Virginia. Of those, the VT/WV game invariably plays second fiddle to the real rivalry between UVa and VT, which is already an inter-conference event.

It’s hard for me to say this as a Hokie, but since the VT/UVa game is a given no matter what conference those two teams are in, it seems to me that the logical choice for the ACC was to pick three teams: Syracuse, West Virginia, and Miami. Three teams, two popular intra-conference matchups each year, two or more extra-conference matchups with the now-dependable Virginia Tech, and twelve teams total for mega-conference status.

Virginia Tech should have been left out, and it is highly unusual to me that UVa proved to be VPI’s savior, even if the governor was behind it.

One final question. Does this move translate to basketball as well? Virginia Tech’s men’s basketball has been terrible for as long as I can remember, while the ACC is generally very good. If that’s the case, VT is contributing a serious basketball liability at the same time that it is supplying good football.

Actually, I think the ACC will be gunning for Louisville next. It’s not the best fit geographically, but money-wise it’s good–Louisville just built a 40,000-seater stadium, and obviously had enough money to throw at Rick Pitino. Louisville right now looks like a better prospect than either UCF and USF, if only because it’s got a longer tradition in both football and basketball.

I also wouldn’t be surprised with the Big 10 (Televen?) making moves to pick up another school (Pittsburgh, or, dare I say it, Notre Dame) to reach twelve teams themselves. I think you could see the Big East potentially falling apart. They’ve always been a strange conference anyway, with the relatively small Catholic colleges (Villanova, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s, etc.) rubbing shoulders with the bigger schools like UConn, Miami and Virginia Tech. (Side note: back in the 1970’s, Niagara University, the school I work for now, was invited into the Big East and turned it down. Oh, how we’d like to have that one back.) Perhaps the Big East football schools will align with the C-USA schools in a jumbo Big 12-style superconference.