The Resident Stat Machine
Joined: Feb 2002
I Root For: Georgia Tech
Location: Atlanta, GA
The race to find team #12 has taken a detour into SEC country. Apparently, the ACC is taking a long, hard look at UF, South Carolina and Kentucky.
Quote:The ACC has taken two teams from the Big East. An SEC team could be next.
"I'd say the ACC will try and recruit somebody from the SEC, maybe Florida, Kentucky or South Carolina," Arkansas athletics director Frank Broyles said Tuesday. "I wouldn't be surprised at all if the ACC went after one of our schools."
College sports experts say the ACC's addition of Miami and Virginia Tech this week is the beginning, not the end, of a shakeup in conference memberships that could go nationwide.
And if the SEC wants to avoid getting raided, it might look to change its rules. Miami and Virginia Tech had to pay $1 million apiece to leave the Big East, but there is no such provision in the SEC, and it's doubtful such a meager buyout would stop anybody anyway.
"There's nothing like that in our bylaws," said Mark Womack, executive associate commissioner of the SEC. "Currently an institution could be invited or could resign at any of our annual meetings."
That probably will change.
"I think it may be something that our presidents and athletic directors will discuss just based on this latest movement," Womack said.
Said Broyles: "I feel strongly that every league will start making preparations for what to do if a team left. I would think in a conference like the SEC, there would be a cost of about $10 million to $15 million on [a buyout]. I mean, that's the value of it."
One of the schools Broyles mentioned as potential targets, South Carolina, said it hasn't received any overtures.
"I've not been contacted," athletics director Mike McGee told The State newspaper. "That is so highly speculative, I wouldn't do anything other than to say we could not be happier in the SEC."
The ACC needs a 12th team to qualify for a football championship game under NCAA rules, and it isn't the only league looking for another team. The Big East needs two more football teams to have the eight required for it to remain a football conference.
Broyles said the strong level of football and basketball played in the SEC makes its members attractive targets. But the money the SEC generates might help it hold onto its members. The SEC distributed $101 million in revenue to its members in May.
Whatever movement takes place, Louisville clearly wants to be a part of it. The Cardinals have made no secret about their desire to improve on their situation within Conference USA and would be interested in joining either the Big East or the ACC.
"At this point, it is all speculation," Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich said in a statement provided to the AJC. "If any opportunity does exist to better the position of our university or improve the experiences of our student-athletes, we want to be in position to explore those options. . . . I have made it very clear [to Conference USA commissioner] Britton [Banowsky] that we will be very aggressive and very ambitious about our future."
Louisville probably is the most ready to move. The Cardinals spent $32 million on varsity sports last year, more than any other non-BCS school. They are annually one of the best football teams in their league and play in a relatively new football stadium. Also, Jurich two years ago hired former Kentucky and NBA basketball coach Rick Pitino, who made the Cardinals No. 3 nationally in basketball attendance last year, behind only Syracuse and Kentucky. Louisville would have to pay C-USA $500,000 to leave.
Conceivably, Louisville would be just as viable an addition to the ACC as to the Big East. However, its recent problems with academic performance and gender equity may be looked upon unfavorably by current ACC members.
The ACC, Big East and Big Ten all reportedly would like to lure Notre Dame football into their leagues. But it will be difficult to lure the Irish away from its football independence as long as NBC continues to write multi-million-dollar checks for broadcast rights of its games.
Wherever the Big East and ACC find new members, those moves will create vacancies, which could lead to more moves. The resulting domino effect could flow from conference to conference and from coast to coast.
"I'm not sure anybody knows what will happen," Womack said. "It's just a matter of individual institutions deciding what's best for them. When we expanded, I remember people saying it would completely change the landscape, and that hasn't happened."
Regardless of which teams join the Big East, that apparently won't have any immediate effect on the league's status as a BCS participant. There is no rule in the current contract, which expires after the January 2005 bowls, regarding the makeup of a member conference.
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