Worth the move?
ACC schools still deliberating over Miami expansionPosted: Friday May 09, 2003 4:49 PM
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- Like Florida State a decade ago, football powerhouse Miami and the Atlantic Coast Conference appear to be a perfect match for expansion.
But at what cost?
The Hurricanes are considering a jump from the Big East Conference to the ACC, a move that could include two other schools -- maybe Boston College, Syracuse or Virginia Tech -- and alter the landscape of college football and the Bowl Championship Series.
"Our league has always been concerned about its culture, its history, and this is a point in time when culture and history and tradition may meet -- and I emphasize may -- meet opportunity," said ACC commissioner John Swofford. "The world never stays the same, whether we want it to or not."
First, the ACC presidents need seven of nine votes for expansion approval -- and apparently more concrete financial figures from Swofford.
The ACC handed out a record $9.7 million to each school last year, meaning three new members would have to bring in about $40 million to break even.
"We're not interested in a scenario that provides less support," North Carolina chancellor James Moeser said Friday.
At this stage, it appears Duke and North Carolina oppose expansion, while Virginia and N.C. State may be on the fence.
And Wake Forest, one of the nation's smallest Division I-A schools playing football, needs more information before jumping head-first into the expansion pool.
"Being in favor of expansion is like being in favor of marriage," Wake Forest president Thomas Hearn said. "It depends on whom you're talking about whether you would be interested in the proposal. We don't know how Wake Forest would vote until we are likely to see who is at the alter."
For now, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Maryland are solid expansion supporters in a league that has added just the Yellow Jackets and Seminoles in 50 years.
Miami's draw for football is a natural for the ACC.
And the school's athletic association lost $1.5 million during the 2001-02 academic calendar year -- a season in which the football team won the national title and the basketball team advanced to the NCAA tournament.
Miami conducted a feasibility study in 1999 that looked at the economics of switching from the Big East to the ACC, and the results showed that the ACC would be significantly more profitable, the Palm Beach Post reported this week.
The study showed that travel expenses represented the largest financial disparity between the conferences, meaning Miami would be able to save money by traveling to the mostly southern ACC campuses instead of the mostly northeastern Big East schools.
The addition of Miami and two other schools would allow the ACC to hold a football championship game. The NCAA doesn't allow such a divisional matchup in conferences with fewer than 12 teams.
Swofford said the possibility of a football title game and the money raised from it -- maybe as much as $8 million -- is just a small part of the expansion equation.
He's correct, according to other commissioners.
"The ACC is working from the premise that a 12-team league and a playoff game are going to be this gold mine," Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said. "I don't know. Yes, it will make money. Will it make millions and millions and millions? Probably not as successfully as the Big 12 or the SEC."
For Karl Benson, commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference, a three-team defection from the Big East could open some BCS avenues that are now closed to some smaller leagues -- like his.
"One of the things that we're interested in is greater access, and fewer guaranteed conferences might provide greater access," Benson said. "If Miami and two other teams leave the Big East, then I think the Big East's spot in the BCS would have to be re-evaluated."
While expansion for the ACC may not make total sense in 2003, Swofford is trying to sell the school presidents on the future benefits.
"We're reaching a decisive point, but circumstances continue to change," Moeser said when asked if a vote was near.
"If you are going to support expansion you have to believe and put faith in a scenario that there's going to be considerably more revenue," he added. "We have concerns."
For now, the Big East and the rest of college sports are on hold, waiting to see what kind of situation unfolds over the next few days, weeks or even months.
"It's like an onion, there's a lot of layers," Thompson said. "The first layer is Miami, the second layer is BC and Syracuse. Perhaps the third layer is if the Big Ten decides to do something similar. The fourth layer is what does the Big East do to replace those teams? Does it simply not replace those people? Does it form a basketball-only league? Do those football teams go to other conferences or do other teams fill in the spots in the Big East? There's a whole bunch of ramifications."