Friday, December 7, 2012

a respite

This will be, I hope, the last post on conference realignment for quite some time.  I do believe yesterday's statement from the ACC presidents, including future members, put at least a temporary rest to the chatter.  It's hard to get much stronger than that without pinky swearing.

I don't think that statement is a permanent end to speculation, or indeed an end to the conference's actual danger.  What the statement is good for is about eight months to a year's worth of rumor-free days.  If you think it'll last much longer than that, think again.  If next year at this time, some president moves their school to another conference, and is asked about the pledge they signed (and it's not even really a pledge) they'll just respond with some variation of "circumstances change."

However, would you believe that a small part of the reason the Big Ten added Maryland and Rutgers was because they feared the ACC?  That's the conclusion I draw from Barry Alvarez's comments today.  Inadvertantly, Jim Delany backed them up before they were even spoken.  Alvarez let slip that Delany feared that Penn State might be looking elsewhere - not necessarily in the short term, but perhaps in the medium term.  Specifically, Alvarez mentioned "a league somewhere on the East Coast."  I don't think he was talking about the Patriot League.

Delany, for his part, was quoted with this, last month:
"But I do think that you need to build, and this build really solidifies the expansion we've done in the past. We've done one in the East, we've done one in the West [Nebraska in 2010]. I would say the driving force is demographics, but when you look at it, you can't help but think this is good for Penn State as well."

Gee, why would he mention Penn State?  Actually, he didn't even need to for us to get the gist.  When talking about how Maryland and Rutgers "solidfy the expansion we've done in the past," he clearly wasn't talking about Nebraska.  And he wouldn't have said that if he didn't think that expansion didn't need solidifying.

Ever played Risk?  Or (I'm really pigeonholing myself here) the board game version of Civilization, which inspired the computer game I spend entirely too much time on?  If you've ever played a game like that, you know you don't spend much time attacking the board's most powerful hegemon.  You probably won't win and you'll just piss him off.  You don't necessarily attack the weakest, either.  Well, you might, but not if you have to waste resources for not much gain.  You go for someone who, if you're successful, can't do much in return but squawk, but could have been a problem if you left him alone for too long.

I think this is what Delany saw.  An opportunity to try and get the Big Ten Network in the DC and NYC markets, yes.  Still the primary reason.  But then there's the game theory behind it, which said that if the Big Ten sat around, and Penn State got to the tipping point of unhappiness, they might go to the ACC.  Farfetched, possibly, but less so than I'd have guessed, since we've got a few muckity-mucks admitting a little apprehension.  If Penn State had come on down to ACC territory, the entire state of Pennsylvania (and its televisions) would've been lost to the BTN and gained by the ACC, and suddenly we'd be looking at a pretty nice setup from the networks.  That drop in Big Ten revenue and gain in ACC revenue might just have been enough to, say, keep Maryland around.  Even if the B1G still made more money, it wouldn't be so much as to cause a defection.

Big Ten presidents stinging from PSU feeling too detached would not then have been inclined to invite an even more detached Rutgers.  Or even Syracuse.  They might have tried their luck with Pittsburgh, but that would've been as far east as they could go, and who would have considered PSU for Pitt a win for the B1G?  Penn State in the ACC would have effectively blocked any further eastward expansion for the Big Ten, which then would've had to turn its attention to the Big 12 and some other iffy fits like Kansas if they'd gotten the expansion bug again.  Maryland and Rutgers mean that not only did the Big Ten expand into new markets, now it still can.

That concern over detachment, however, could be important.  Maybe not, but maybe so.  Why?  I think it mitigates some of the concern that Georgia Tech might be a Big Ten target.  Yes, Atlanta market, AAU school, and so on.  Not saying I now think the B1G will leave GT alone.  Just that I think it means you can move the doomsday clock a minute or so back from midnight.

Along those lines, remember, too, the Big 12 isn't necessarily a plum destination itself.  It has the Texas market and then a whole bunch of large states with no people in them.  While we may be watching the Maryland lawsuit intently for exit fee ramifications, it is no done thing that FSU will bolt the moment they learn they can do it cheaply.

With that, it's time to hopefully put the craziness to bed for a good long hibernation.  I've been wrong about this before, of course.  I say something like this and probably next week we learn UVA is off to the Pac-12.  But with just a little bit of luck I can now avoid devoting any entire posts to realignment until July when the ACC welcomes a pair of new members.

1 comment:

The Ole Philosopher said...

I hope you are right about this, Brendan. I am still not excited about Pitt and Syracuse being in our league but understand it is likely the price of at least short term survival. I am even less excited about Louisville because I think it does not match up in any way to the level of academics and prestige of the other member schools. Again, though, the cost of living in the ACC for another year. Yeow, I just hate this stuff.