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If Universities Were Free Agents....
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NCGatorBait Offline
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<span style='color:blue'>Saw this posted at GatorSports....</span>

<a href='http://www.eeesports.net/freeagents.htm' target='_blank'>Click Here</a>

<span style='color:blue'>The South (ACC/SEC)
See The Midwest & East (Big East/Big Ten) (here)

Everyone is having a great deal of fun with the expansion talk surrounding the ACC and the Big East. Clearly the crown jewel in this fight is Miami. We got to thinking here, what if colleges were like free agents and free to move as they please and conferences could simply go out there and bid for a college to join their conference. We already know that Miami is the best the Big East has to offer, but what if all schools were up for grabs. So playing this hypothetical game if Commissioner X of a brand new super conference was looking to form a conference what schools would form the foundation for this new conference? What would be the top university? Since conferences really should have some continuity with regards to geography we are going to go region by region. Here is a look at the South and how the schools shape up in the free agent market. The rankings are based largely on football and basketball with other sports playing a minor role.

1 Florida - Steve Spurrier liked to call himself the HBC or Head Ball Coach. Well, for the past few years, including a few while Spurrier was still in town, it is Coach Billy Donavan that is the "Head Ball" coach in Gainesville. While football has taken a downward trend under Zook's watch the Gators are still a huge draw and bring the State of Florida to the table. The combined package of basketball and football make the Gators the number one free agent school in the South.

2 Miami - These things are cyclical but for the past few years no one is better on the gridiron than the Canes. Love 'em or hate 'em the Hurricanes are one of the few schools that have a national draw and with football the cash cow of a conference the football success of Miami overcomes their solid but not spectacular basketball program. Throw in an elite baseball team and it is hard to find a more attractive commodity than the Canes.

3 Florida State - While many might think that three Florida teams occupying the top three slots is slanted we are not putting together a single conference but rather ranking the schools in order of attractiveness if one was putting together a conference from scratch. You probably wouldn't want to take FSU if you already had UF and Miami but if you were starting from scratch and those two schools were not available what school would be a better start than the Seminoles? When a 9-5 season and Sugar Bowl berth is a "bad" year you know you have a good product. The Seminoles have developed a national reputation much like the Canes and TV executives don't care if you are rooting against a school so long as you are watching. FSU's lack of a basketball squad, yes they play but not well, keeps them from being ranked higher but the Noles also bring a strong baseball squad for a sport that is up-and-coming in college athletics.

4 Tennessee - The Vols pack in 100,000+ each home game and have consistently been among the nations top teams in football for decades now. In addition you can't discount the fact that the Vols bring an entire state to the TV ratings table as Vanderbilt and Memphis can't even carry their own towns. While Nashville, Memphis and Chattanooga are not huge markets on their own, collectively that is a large audience that live and die for the Big Orange. A good basketball and baseball program compliment an elite football squad that any conference commish would love to have in his corner.

5 Kentucky - Before fans in Tuscaloosa or Baton Rouge go crazy remember that while football is King it is not the only show in town. A conference needs to be well rounded and not be one dimensional. Kentucky's team colors are very appropriate when it comes to the hard court as the Wildcats are one of the very few Blue Bloods of basketball. While no one will confuse their football team with the above mentioned schools the Wildcats are competitive on the football which is why UK comes out ahead of UNC and Duke.

6 Georgia - While rival Ga. Tech is located in Atlanta there is no doubt that the capital of the South is Bulldog country. Georgia fields an overall athletic department that is competitive in all sports and with a young charismatic coach in Mark Richt the football program looks to finally realize the potential that has long been associated with the flagship university of the Peach State. If the university can weather some recent off field incidents and build the basketball program up, UGA could challenge for the top spot in a few years when this poll is conducted again.

7 N Carolina - Taking the Heels is a bit of a gamble but the upside is just too good to pass up on. Mack Brown showed that you can win football games in Chapel Hill compiling two consecutive 11 win seasons before he left for Texas. With Roy Williams coming home there is no doubt that UNC will return to its place as a perennial Top 10 school in hoops. Like we said with Kentucky, football is great but you don't want to be a conference that never gets to send a school to the Final Four. Throw in the Charlotte market and the Heels are a very nice addition to a conference.

8 Maryland - The Terps are one of the few teams in the country that can say they have both a national championship in football and basketball. With the return to glory, few remember that UM was a consistent Top 25 team in the early 80s, in football and a solid basketball program the Terps deliver a 1-2 punch that can not be ignored. Add to that the Washington D.C. area and the marketability potential of Maryland is huge. However, the disastrous 90s for football has us a little skeptical of just how long the football success will last. Are the Terps for real or just another Northwestern?

9 LSU - The fans in Baton Rouge are rabid for their Tigers and that passion is music to a conference's ears when it comes to marketing. Throw in the fact that LSU is a gateway school located on the border of the South and Southwest and LSU can generate interests in another region that few Southern schools can. The Tigers have found a new resurgence lately in football making it to the Sugar and Cotton Bowls and always have a good basketball team. Couple that with a college baseball dynasty and a new conference is sure to be proud to welcome these Tigers into the fold.

10 Duke - The Devils may have the best basketball program in the country in terms of the last twenty years, however, you can't overlook just how bad the Duke football program is. The joke of a football stadium and lack of any potential weigh down the school's overall worth. That being said Duke is still an elite power in basketball and if the Blue Devils can bring home national titles and take the conference to Final Fours we can overlook the lack of football success. Besides, wouldn't you rather be great in basketball and just skip football than be mediocre in basketball and make a so-so bowl every few years? Sorry, Wake I don't think Duke wants to change places with you.

11. Louisville - Basically a poor man's Kentucky. Sorry Card fans, UL has great tradition in basketball and a solid football program but it is just your luck that your cross state rival brings everything you have to the table and just a lil bit more. However, still a fine addition.

12. Alabama/Auburn - These two are in a tie because they are basically in the same boat and should be a package deal to any conference. Neither team is an elite player in either football or basketball but are solid in both sports. In the last twenty years these two schools have one national title between them in football/basketball/baseball. The state is a small market and offers little other than the fans passion for the game. Auburn appears to be on the rise but does not have the tradition found in Tuscaloosa. While the tradition is nice, TV viewers these days are more likely to think Joe Namath skipped college than remember he played for Bama.

14. Virginia Tech - A solid Top 25 school in football year after year but the Hokies can't get over the hump. Tech has never beaten a team ranked higher than #9 in football and Hokie basketball is virtually non-existent. Nonetheless, the football team is solid and attractive.

15. Clemson - A football school that has a great fan base that travels. Bowls love the Tigers.

16. NC State - A school with great basketball tradition and a football program that is better than given credit for. A few more years under Coach Amato and the Wolfpack could be a Top 10 free agent.

17. Georgia Tech - Before O'Leary left this program really appeared to be heading in the right direction. The basketball program is normally solid and the Jackets had enjoyed a run of three straight wins over the hated Bulldawgs. Great tradition but Tech is stuck with the label of "potential" which amounts to unrealized goals in the here and now. Still Atlanta is a gigantic plus for Tech even though majority of town wears Red and Black.

18. Arkansas - A decade ago and the Hogs were in fine company. However, the football squad has not been a national player since the late 80s and the basketball squad is recovering from the Nolan Richardson debacle. Probably a better fit in a Midwest to Southwest conference.

19. USF - South Florida is a sleeper team and if this were a draft then it is a school that would be characterized as a sleeper pick with unlimited potential. The school is in Tampa a large TV market with regards to college athletics and the school is committed to its athletic programs. The Bulls have been very competitive on the field in both football and basketball and have a very solid baseball team.

20. Southern Miss - Solid football team year in and year out. Lack of a solid basketball program hurts their attractiveness. Every bit as good as in-state rivals just never given the chance.

06-21-2003 01:37 AM
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