On Sunday afternoon at the ACC football kickoff in Greensboro, N.C., ACC commissioner John Swofford will give a “state of the state” speech and address the media.
If it was written already, chances are he amended it on Wednesday night.
Swofford can now include the confirmed additions of Pitt and Syracuse to the league in July 2013. It should come as no surprise, considering West Virginia set legal precedent with its early exit to the Big 12. Both Pitt and Syracuse officials were at the ACC spring meetings in May, and the ACC had decided in February that Syracuse would be in the Atlantic Division and Pitt would play in the Coastal Division as part of a nine-game league format. Everything was already in place, and the Big East allowed for smooth, albeit costly, exits.
There will be plenty of positives for Swofford to highlight on Sunday -- quite a turnaround from what was perceived to be a dark cloud hanging over the conference just a month ago. Swofford, though, still has some work to do.
There are two major steps the ACC can still take to make itself even stronger. The first is adding Notre Dame as an Orange Bowl partner in years that the Irish qualify. The second is arranging a scheduling partnership with the Big Ten similar to the agreement that fell through between the Big Ten and Pac-12.
It would be great to see the likes of Florida State-Nebraska, Miami-Ohio State, and Virginia Tech-Michigan on a more regular basis. One thing that will make that difficult, though, is the same thing that gave the Pac-12 reservations -- a nine-game conference schedule. Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech would have to agree to playing their SEC rivals AND possibly a Big Ten opponent in the same season. Clearly, strength of schedule wouldn’t be a problem in the ACC.
The ACC could help counter that by having only half of its teams participate in that partnership every year, or rotating two teams out of the deal every year. Or, it could revisit its idea of going to a nine-game league schedule in favor of an annual 12-game partnership with the Big Ten. The bottom line is that there are several options to find a way to make it work. If all 14 schools don’t agree to the idea, though, the Big Ten probably wouldn’t be interested.
This is an exciting time for the ACC, as it will become a 14-team conference one year from now. It not only survived expansion, it has paved the way in that regard. And who knows? A possible partnership with Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl could lay the foundation for the Irish to become the next member of the ACC. The good news is that right now, the ACC doesn’t NEED to expand. There is no pressure to become a so-called superconference. The additions of Pitt and Syracuse will benefit the league both financially and academically. Swofford wouldn’t have handed out the invitations otherwise.
Enjoy this season, ACC fans, because the league won’t look the same again -- and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.