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Sunday, September 18, 2011

ACC scores a knockdown punch in expansion wars by welcoming Pitt, Syracuse. Who's next?

Posted by on Sun, Sep 18, 2011 at 8:39 PM

UNC takes the field in 2010.
All this conference expansion and realignment talk over the second half of the summer has confused and perplexed just about anyone who follows college sports.

And then on Sunday the ACC surprised just about everybody — at least with its swiftness and clarity of action though not with the final result — with a knockdown punch.

The media had only about 8 ½ hours official notice that the 58-year-old conference would expand to 14 teams with the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, completing the conference’s unbroken footprint of states from Florida to Massachusetts.

With all the unceasing talk about Texas A&M probably striking a killer blow to the ill-fated Big XII by bolting for the Southeastern Conference, the ACC blocked a couple of the Big Ten’s best shots for a stronger move East by adding the best available schools from the Northeast’s two biggest states.

Big East bylaws would seem to prohibit either team from playing an ACC schedule until 2014-15, but the feeling here is that each negotiates a little higher payment than the conference’s $5 million buyout fee and is competing for championships a year earlier than that.

And equally importantly was the conference’s vote — unanimous it was, just as were the votes to add the Panthers and the Orange - to impose a $20 million exit fee on any school that decides to leave. It was like a renewal of marriage vows with Florida State along with any more of the several less likely schools to exit that have been mentioned in speculative columns all over the country.

Watch now as A&M heads to the SEC, followed by Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and Texas and Texas Tech heading to the Pac-12, erm, Pac-16, starting an SEC-Big Ten war over Missouri. The dominoes will continue to go as Connecticut — along with either Rutgers or West Virginia — helps take the ACC to 16, with the whole thing settling down in a few months after Notre Dame finally, finally joins the Big Ten.

Of course half of what I’ve written here will probably turn out to be wrong. But it has been an interesting weekend at the top level of college sports, and the show is a long, long way from being over.

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