Expansion never stops in college football and another domino fell on Monday: Maryland will be leaving the ACC to become the 13th member of the Big Ten.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh are set to join the ACC in 2013, which would have given the conference 14 teams. However, with the Terrapins set to depart, the ACC is back to 13 teams and unbalanced divisions for its long-term outlook.
Maryland’s official departing date from the ACC will be after the 2013 season but it will have to pay a hefty exit fee. The conference raised the exit fee to $50 million earlier this season but that number will likely be negotiated.
So now the big question is…what’s next for the ACC?
Simple answer: Uncertainty. The rumors about Florida State and Clemson potentially leaving for the Big 12 will likely start again, while the ACC will have to add another team.
Rutgers is the most likely 14th team for the Big Ten, but North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia Tech are also believed to be on commissioner Jim Delany’s radar. Even if the Big Ten stops at 14 teams for now, don’t be surprised if the conference moves to 16 in the future.
With Maryland officially leaving for the Big Ten, Louisville and Connecticut are expected to be the top targets for the ACC to get back to 14 teams. Here’s a look at the pros/cons for each school.
Pros: In the ACC’s quest to become college football’s premier conference on the East Coast, the Huskies would be another solid addition to bolster that claim. Connecticut’s football program isn’t a national powerhouse, but its men’s basketball team has three national titles. Also, the women’s basketball program is one of the top-10 teams in the nation. Connecticut also has an attractive location for television, as it is less than three hours outside of New York City.
Cons: Considering the ACC has struggled to become a football power, why add another program that is just 83-83 since 1999? While the Huskies are located in a prime spot in the Northeast, would they really deliver the highly-valued television markets?
Pros: Louisville is a well-rounded athletic department, which includes top 25 teams in football and women’s and men’s basketball. The Cardinals also are in better shape than Connecticut in terms of an athletic budget. With the ACC needing a boost in football, Louisville would be the perfect fix. The facilities are in place for the Cardinals to win big, especially if coach Charlie Strong sticks around for the immediate future.
Cons: The Cardinals don’t have as strong of a television market as Connecticut, which matters when it comes to realignment. Also, Louisville ranks behind the Huskies in the U.S. News College rankings, which is important for an academic conference like the ACC.
Who should be the ACC’s 14th team? Louisville
When it comes to realignment, it’s all about money and long-term potential. While Connecticut has the better television market and academics, the ACC needs to add a program like Louisville to bolster its football product. The Cardinals are 113-59 in football since 1999 and the potential is there to win big. Louisville isn’t a perfect geographic fit but that matters little in realignment.
It’s not crazy to think Florida State and Clemson would want to look for a way out of the ACC in the near future and adding a program like Louisville would help the conference show its commitment to football, especially after passing on West Virginia last year.
Outside of adding Connecticut or Louisville, the ACC's other options would appear to be standing pat at 13 teams for the near future or convincing Notre Dame to join as a full-time member. While the ACC would like the Fighting Irish as a full-time member, it doesn't appear they want to give up their independence. And staying at 13 football programs doesn't make sense with two viable options on the table.
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