|Hood: Escape plan needed|
|by David Hood - Senior Writer - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 9:09 PM||
Yes, an escape plan is needed.
The news broke this past weekend that the University of Maryland, a founding member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, was looking at the perceived greener pastures of the Big Ten, and that came to fruition Monday when Maryland formally announced that they were leaving the ACC for the Big Ten. They were followed by Rutgers on Tuesday.
At first blush, Maryland’s leaving the ACC doesn’t really hurt the conference – the Terrapins have been an also-ran in football, the real money sport in the conference. Clemson fans may not miss the trip to Washington, D.C. or College Park, Maryland, and it might be exciting to think that the conference could further help itself by adding Notre Dame as a full-time member or going out and adding a school that not only wants to be a member, but would help improve the league from a football standpoint.
However, I truly believe that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney – who has added teams 13 and 14 – isn’t done adding teams, and he might cast a longing eye towards a few other members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and once one of the bigger conferences makes the move to 16 members, the others are sure to follow suit.
Maryland and Rutgers have both made an absolute mess of the financials in their athletic department, and are looking at the move to the Big Ten as a bailout for their own fiscal irresponsibility. The hope is that the cable deal and the Big Ten Network will provide enough of a revenue stream to get out of the red.
When the rumors concerning Clemson and Florida St. and a potential move to the Big 12 surfaced last spring, one of the main reasons listed for a Florida St. move was similar to the reasons that Maryland bolted – the Big 12’s television deal will provide those schools a bigger piece of the financial pie and Florida St. is another school that needs an infusion of cash into the athletic department.
With that said, the Big 12 will almost certainly see the need to re-establish a conference championship game, and despite statements to the contrary in late spring would likely add at least two more teams. The SEC has expanded to 14 teams, and with the SEC network providing an infusion of cash into the league, they might join the Big 12 in taking a look at current ACC members.
The ACC appeared to be proactive in adding Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the conference last season, but that move ignored the fact that football drives the financial bus these days, and those schools don’t bring a lot to the table from a football standpoint. Adding Notre Dame was nice, but the Irish aren’t a full-fledged football member, something that only helps Notre Dame even though Notre Dame has agreed to play five ACC teams per season starting in a few years.
All of that may be too little, too late for the ACC, however. The league’s new television deal was greeted less than enthusiastically by many league members, and might have been part of the reason that the Terps decided that road trips to places like Iowa and Nebraska are preferable to staying in a conference they had a standing history with.
If Maryland was looking, then other schools might be looking as well, and you can bet that there are schools in the conference that have at least picked up the phone to see what options might be out there.
Maryland’s move snuck up on everybody, and despite all of the rumors that floated around from every legitimate and illegitimate news source back in the spring, it wouldn’t be inconceivable that another school could make a sudden announcement that they, too, were leaving for those greener pastures.
That’s why I think – and granted no one in Clemson’s athletic department calls me asking for advice – that Clemson needs to have an escape plan in place. The best thing for Clemson and the ACC would be for the ACC to get Notre Dame to replace Maryland as a full-time member in football, and for the league to overcome the woes of this season and put stronger football teams out on the field. That’s the ideal situation, but that might also be fantasy land.
The worst thing that could happen for Clemson would be to wake up one morning and find out that a school like N.C. State was headed to the SEC or that Florida St. was headed to the Big 12. If that happens – or if the Big 12, Big Ten and SEC further expand to a “super conference” model, the ACC is going to be in big trouble from a football standpoint.Clemson’s administration can’t let that morning happen without planning ahead and having an emergency escape plan ready to go. The crew of the Titanic had lifeboats available, but blissfully sailed on into the night thinking that the ship would never go down. Clemson needs to not only have lifeboats available – pardon the shipping reference – but needs to have a plan in place to get those boats out to sea in case of an emergency.
Also, if I’m ACC Commissioner John Swofford right now, I am worried less about finding a replacement for Maryland than I am in keeping the current structure of the league in place. The league has taken a hit on the field and in national perception over the past few seasons – much of it self-inflicted – but self-inflicted wounds didn’t stop Maryland and it certainly wouldn’t stop another school in an ever-changing landscape.
I’m not saying that Clemson needs to go out tomorrow and ask for admission to the SEC [which might not happen even if they asked] or to the Big 12 or the Big Ten, but connections needs to be made and doors have to be opened.
The escape plan has to be in place.
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