Wednesday, April 21, 2010

uva football in the big ten; or, why that would suck

Yesterday we had a look at the implications of Big Ten expansion on the ACC. Conclusion: The ACC will not be a target of an SEC or Big Ten raid and not fall apart in such a way as to leave UVA in the lurch. Plenty of non-message-board sources (this one for example) list the ACC as one of the most stable leagues going. The only people who are afraid of this are people with overactive imaginations, and even some of those people don't see the ACC as a target for plunder.

This is because tradition means nothing in college football, except for when it means dollar signs. The Big East has no football tradition. It's glommed together from teams that either have no tradition themselves (USF, UConn) or spent all their history as an independent (WVU, Pitt.) Their boosters couldn't care less what happens to the Big East. The Big 12 has a slightly different dynamic - it's like the Civil War there, north vs. south. Only in this case, the south thinks the north is holding them back and the north thinks the south (read: everyone in Texas) is hogging everything. Given the way that conference came together, that's not surprising. But the blue-blooded boosters at ACC schools like the ACC, thank you very much, and so does their money. The ACC is either standing pat or expanding.

But anyway, the point. Yesterday I made passing mention that UVA in the Big Ten would be a disaster for UVA. I'd've said more, but it was getting to be a long post and the Red Wings were on, so today I'll expand on that a little. The point for today is, "disaster" might be too soft a word. I think the word "Northwestern" might be more appropriate. If you want to be Northwestern, by all means advocate a paranoid jump to the Big Ten to fend off the imaginary cataclysm that isn't going to leave UVA begging the Ivy League for admission.

Problem #1 is that recruiting would take a tremendous nosedive. Benefit: we can now sell our recruits on games against some of college football's oldest and most visible powers.

The obvious issue with that is we would very soon find ourselves competing against those powers for recruits. You can spend all your time telling a kid how awesome Michigan is and how neat it'll be to play against them on national TV in front of 100,000 people, and watch it all backfire when his Michigan offer comes in the mail. Oops. Michigan's already horning in on our territory thanks to Rich Rodriguez's West Virginia history; remember Ken Wilkins and Jordan Paskorz? They loved UVA until Michigan came calling. You watch: Corey Marshall is going to be at VT's spring game this weekend, and if he doesn't commit then and there, Michigan is the next place he's taking a hard look.

So it'd be mightily counterproductive to let Michigan - and Ohio State and Penn State and so on - come to the state of Virginia and put on a show for our instate recruits. Like we already don't have enough trouble getting Pennsylvania recruits to ignore Penn State for two seconds and take a look at Charlottesville. Big Ten schools would love to get their hooks into Virginia and would derive a hell of a lot more benefit from being on TV here than we would by playing in barren recruiting wastelands like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. Right now we play games in quality recruiting territory: NC, FL, GA. That'd change in the Big Ten, and the only quality recruiting territory we'd play any games in are states where the top recruits only leave if the instate power lets them.

Neither would it help that VT would be telling all our recruits about the cold weather up there. It's not actually that bad, or so this native Michigander will tell you, but by the time Frank Beamer's done with those recruits they'll think we play all our road games in Nunavut. And once our guys take their first late-November trip to Minneapolis, they'll think he's right. Southern teams don't do all that well in sub-50-degree weather, let alone snow.

Which brings us to the competition side of things. Now, when it comes to football, the Big Ten and ACC are not the cool kids' conferences. And as a fan of a team in both, I tend to occasionally find myself in the strange position of defending each conference to each other's fans. Big Ten fans scoff at the ACC, and vice versa. My actual opinion, though? Big Ten football wins the cage fight. Especially in cold weather. The ACC's worst are generally better than the Big Ten's worst, but the Big Ten is stronger at the top and has a much clearer hierarchy there. Advancement in the ACC is easier, now that Florida State is no longer the conference hegemon and shows no signs of becoming so again. There is no conference hegemon. The Big Ten has 'em, and everyone else can just enjoy their Alamo Bowl trips. You ever want to win a conference championship in football? Stick with the ACC.

Full disclosure, of course: there's a personal aspect to this. One of my criteria for choosing a college was that they couldn't be a Big Ten school that wasn't Michigan, because I had no interest in choosing sides every year. A bowl game or a nonconference game would be one thing - a novelty - but on a personal level I'd really, really hate to be pitting my teams against one another all the time. But my personal biases don't change the harsh realities. I don't want to see UVA in the Big Ten.


Alright, I spent all this time talking about future recruiting situations that are never happening anyway, so maybe I owe you some real-world stuff too. So here's a recruiting board update, not least because UVA picked up another commitment last night, sneaky-style, while my attention was occupied with hockey.

- Added DE Diamonte Bailey to glorious orange. Bailey wanted to be a Hoo so badly that once he received his offer he went back in time to accept it before it was given, just to demonstrate his enthusiasm. His recruitment went that quickly. This is a good thing, because we need bodies on the defensive line like nothing else, and Bailey also just so happens to be a teammate of Curtis Grant.

- Added ATH Anthony Harris and OL Kelby Johnson to blue. Johnson seems like a great bet to be a Hoo sooner or later, which would extend our streak at DeMatha to four years in a row.

- Added TE Brian Miller to yellow.

- Moved LB Travis Hughes from yellow to red. Hughes is really giving off this vibe that says, "You're really nice, can we just be friends?"


TimmyG said...

One understated reason that a UVA move to the B10 would suck: the parents of many recruits place a huge value on game driveability - can they easily drive every weekend to see junior smash into other large dudes?

This hugely affected Penn State when they switched to the B10. For years they had the pick of the litter of recruits in NJ, DE, MD, and good pull in downstate NY - until some parents realized with the move to the B10 how difficult annual road trips from the NYC area to Iowa City, Bloomington, or Madison were. (This coincided with the late Welsh/early Groh raiding of eastern PA and NJ for talent like Schaub and Arlen Harris.)

PSU figured this out and compensated in their recruiting - they get more guys from within the B10 footprint than before - but I think this simple factor (parents' ability to spectate) would toast football and probably most other sports.

Brendan said...

Agreed 100%. Believe it or not I actually had mentioned that very problem in a paragraph I eventually scrapped (it was a lousy paragraph.) NC is where this would hurt the most: we always have a divisional road game there, and three out of six years, two road games (if you count Clemson as close enough, which it is.) Our success in North Carolina would be cut at least in half, if not more.

Anonymous said...

Ooooops, apparently the ACC is a target of B1G expansion...

Anonymous said...

"Disaster" is too soft a word, so instead you choose "Northwestern" to describe what UVA joining the Big Ten would be like? Please! NU is 9-3 right now, a record that 4-8 UVA would love to have right now. Add in the fact that UVA has better athletic facilities than NU, and you guys could very well compete at the highest levels in the Big Ten. Don't sell yourself short.

Brendan said...

Dude, this post was written two and a half years ago.