Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The ACC and identity
You have to think Mike Krzyzewski is smiling or chucking (or whatever he does when he's amused) just a little in the wake of these scandals that have rocked ACC football programs in recent months.
You might recall some of the ACC purists (read: basketball adherents) posed some strong resistance to the ACC's plans to expand to 12 schools and get into the business of big-boy football.
Basketball, the purists argued, was the ACC's roots. Doing away with the round-robin schedule while significantly diluting a crown jewel (ACC Tournament) applied a chainsaw to those roots.
Fast-forward eight or so years to the present, and ... well lookie here. The ACC has been an utter disappointment on the national stage by failing to sniff the BCS title game, failing to secure an at-large BCS bid, and falling on its face in a number of high-profile matchups. Its championship game is sparsely attended and offers very little national intrigue.
And now two of its football programs (Miami and North Carolina) are in shambles after a tidal wave of NCAA violations, and another (Georgia Tech) got busted for lying to the NCAA.
(Insert a nasal, sinister snicker from Krzyzewski here.)
Teams from other conferences cheat and win big. Teams from the ACC cheat and finish their seasons in the Music City and Hyundai Sun bowls.
Has this reached a point where the ACC's power brokers wonder if this was all worth it? Mark Bradley of the AJC had a good column the other day wondering if the ACC not only will cease to matter, but cease to exist.
The question, then: If football tepid and basketball is top-heavy, what’s the lure of the ACC? Tradition, yes. Seven of these 12 have graced the conference since 1953, the year it was formed. Academics, sure. In scholastic terms, this is considered the most serious of the six BCS leagues. But are history and academics enough in a business where millions of dollars flow to the schools that play the best football?
The ACC is in trouble. Its image — and the ACC cares about image — has been sullied. Georgia Tech had to forfeit the 2009 conference title and was placed on four years’ probation by the NCAA. North Carolina has been hit with nine rules violations ranging from impermissible benefits to academic fraud. Miami could well get the death penalty in the wake of Nevin Shapiro’s jailhouse accusations.
Here's a question: Should the ACC rethink its lot in conference life, its identity, and consider getting back to its roots? As Bradley correctly pointed out, all the money these days is in football. But the ACC already has a pretty healthy football contract with ESPN, so it's good there (assuming it doesn't lose a member or two to the SEC).
Everyone is wondering whether the ACC will be proactive to secure its place amid the anticipated conference realignment armageddon, and we tend to frame it all in football terms. But what if the ACC's audacious move consisted of raiding the Big East of some of its basketball jewels (Connecticut? Syracuse? Louisville? Pitt?) and supplanting the Big East as the nation's premier basketball aggregation?
It sounds kinda crazy at first, and no doubt no one around Clemson is interested in going against football interests.
But from the ACC's perspective, is it really such a bad idea?
Heck, at least the conference would be good at something instead of pretending to be good at something.