ACC Realignment: Get the Best Teams or Stop Expanding at 14

Chip SpanglerContributor IIISeptember 20, 2011

Penn State battles Notre Dame in a matchup of two of the most storied programs in college football.
Penn State battles Notre Dame in a matchup of two of the most storied programs in college football.Chris Gardner/Getty Images

With the recent expansion of the ACC to 14 teams, rampant speculation exists on which schools will be No. 15 and No. 16, assuming that the conference continues expanding.

Numerous names have been mentioned, including Connecticut, West Virginia, Rutgers, Cincinnati, Louisville, Penn State, Notre Dame, Texas and even Villanova and several other odd choices.

Before even starting, academic considerations rule out several of the choices mentioned.  West Virginia, Cincinnati and Louisville are not as academically strong as the ACC schools and are extremely unlikely to receive an invitation.

Connecticut is in the New England market, and obviously has strong basketball programs, but BC is already in the same market and UConn's football team is mediocre at best.  The conference is stacked with elite basketball teams; having one more wouldn't necessarily add a substantial benefit.  The ACC can't add all of the great basketball schools out there, nor should it try to do so.

Texas is a very strong academic and athletic school.  However, it is beyond geographically ridiculous for the Atlantic Coast Conference.  Everything related to travel (including money and time required) gets worse, and Texas' unbridled quest to control everything could do more harm than good for the conference.  Texas appears to be intent on dragging Texas Tech along with them, a scenario that shouldn't please the ACC.

The bottom line is simple. The ACC should only expand if it gets two of these three schools: Notre Dame, Rutgers and Penn State.

Notre Dame's upside is tremendous for the conference.  It has strong athletic and academic traditions, is a tremendous draw across the nation and especially important, a tremendous draw in NYC.  It's not the best as far as ACC geography, but it's not too far away that it's unreasonable.

Rutgers, while athletically weak, is an AAU school with a strong academic tradition and it geographically fits in well with the ACC.  It would add the New Jersey market and help with the New York market, although Notre Dame would help more with NYC.

The last school to consider, which is a long shot but would be a great coup, is another AAU school that is currently in the Big Ten, Penn State.  It has great academic and athletic traditions, a strong following, comfortably sits in the ACC's geographic boundaries and would have immediate sports rivalries within the conference.

The addition of Pitt and Syracuse may help the ACC's case for adding Penn State.  Travel for Penn State would substantially improve compared to what it currently is in the Big Ten, and the ACC's academic programs are at least on par with those in the Big Ten.

If the ACC could get two of Notre Dame, Penn State and Rutgers, it would make sense to expand to 16 teams.  If not, it should stick with 14 teams.