With Colorado officially in the Pac 10 and Nebraska all but certain to join the Big Ten, the national game of musical chairs has begun. Although rarely mentioned, BC is a player in all of this. We have a great (yet not threatening) combination of TV/sports/academics. We have ties to the ACC, the Big East and Notre Dame. BC would be a nice piece to any conference, but where will we land? Here is my speculation and thoughts on some of the players and issues at hand.
BC to the Big Ten?
While this is not a strong rumor like "Rutgers to the Big Ten" or "Mizzou to the Big Ten" there are still some whispers about it. If the Big Ten wants to reach that deep into the northeast and hit up as many TV homes as possible, I could see their interest. But I think the Big Ten will approach at least five other schools before they come to BC. If the Big Ten did approach BC, I think we would have to go. The money alone is reason enough, but the long term security of being in the premiere athletic conference makes sense. However, I wonder if our leadership would be willing to go down that path again...Father Leahy and Gene D
I don't know if many BC fans understand the personal and professional pain Father Leahy and Gene went through during the ACC expansion. They both bet their careers and legacies on the move. They were vilified in public by supposed friends and former colleagues and were sued personally. We and they are fortunate it all worked out. Now it is time again for more politically jockeying and backroom dealing. Are these two still game? If BC were to do something bold like ditch the ACC for the Big Ten, we would look like the biggest money hungry, disloyal school in the country? And Gene would be called every greed inspired insult in the book. I don't think this will become an issue since I don't think the Big Ten will come calling, but our leadership and their willingness to play ball this time around is a factor.
Where do we want to be?
I think given all that could happen, BC would prefer to stay in the ACC in its present configuration. If the ACC falls apart or starts to seriously lag behind the other conferences in revenue, then things could change.
ESPN, The SEC and The ACC
The only way the ACC falls apart is if the SEC raids the conference. As regular readers know, I feared raid as recently as this week. Now not as much. This is all speculation on my part, but I think the logic holds. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has admitted that their deal with ESPN does allow for more money if the SEC expands. But I imagine ESPN must have protected itself with a provision regarding who they would be willing to pay more for. You have to assume ESPN is not willing to pay a premium for content it already has. So I could see why they would pay more if the SEC secured Texas or Texas A&M. ESPN doesn't have an all inclusive deal with the Big 12, so those programs would be considered new content. However, the ACC and ESPN are already in bed together. ESPN owns it all. Why would they suddenly be willing to pay more for FSU or Miami? Surely they won't let the SEC hold them up like that. Also, ESPN's new deal with the ACC is indirect incentive for the network to keep the ACC whole. If the ACC is raided, ESPN's ACC inventory would be in jeopardy. The Pac 16 and Big 10 have or will have their own cable networks. They are independent of ESPN. There are no other players out there for ESPN to "partner" with. For better or worse, the SEC, ACC and ESPN are all intertwined. If they SEC expands now, I don't see it being at the ACC and ESPN's expense.
If the ACC is raided
Then we are back looking at a leftover conference filled with the remnants of the Big East, Big 12 and ACC. This would probably still be a BCS conference, but it would lack in geographic, institutional, historic and economic relevancy. This would probably be the worst case scenario, but we would survive. We could potentially be a big fish in this small pond, but the money and marketing lost would hurt the athletic department long term.
What do I think will happen
The situations keep changing, but right now I actually think the ACC will be okay. I think we stay at 12 teams and don't lose any members. I don't know how long that will last, but my guess is another five years. Eventually a playoff will come and things will get reshuffled again.