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State of the U Roundtable: Thoughts on Conference Expansion and Where Miami Fits In

The State of the U editors weigh in on the changing landscape of college football.

Appalachian State v Miami Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

What started as a push with Oklahoma and Texas moving to the SEC became a full shove last week after USC and UCLA were announced to be heading to the Big Ten. The landscape of college football is now in a true state of flux, and that creates uncertainty for every team not currently in either the SEC or the B1G, which of course includes Miami. Where is college football headed, and what does it mean for the Canes?

The State of the U editors offer their answers to those questions in the following roundtable...

1) What are your initial thoughts about USC and UCLA moving to the B1G?

Cameron J. Underwood: Shocked, like most people. Honestly and truly didn’t see this coming. But, after taking a beat to think about it, this is the next (first? idk) step toward super conferences and the end of the NCAA. And, while we’re at it, good on the Big 10 for being proactive, forward thinking, and making a massive move to change the status quo while clearly cementing themselves as one of if not the biggest power brokers in the sport. Sure, the SEC is up there as well, but behind those two, everybody else is an afterthought. And we’ll probably talk more about this in further questions, but the ACC better take notice and get working on their plan to expand. Or risk folding like the PAC-12 is about to do (YIKES for them).

Kappa Cane: All for it, but I wonder if any of the rivalries in the PAC-12 will be preserved. I initially thought they were doing that as a negotiation tactic for a bigger piece of the pie, but it appears now they were serious about it. I’m looking forward the new matchups we’ll see.

Justin Dottavio: I’ve been around long enough to remember when PSU, FSU, ND, Miami were all indies anyway. I get WHY there are conferences- easy TV deals etc, non revenue sports scheduling, but at this point it doesn’t make a ton of sense in football.

Craig T. Smith: I was completely shocked when I heard about it, although maybe I shouldn’t have been in hindsight. From what I’ve read, the school payout per year has been significantly higher in the B1G and the SEC than for other conferences, including a difference of over $10 million less for PAC-12 schools in the 2020 fiscal year. That matters. A lot. It’s always about the money. And joining an established juggernaut like the B1G with Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, etc. means you’re locking into a long-term partner that’s going nowhere. A very sensible move for both schools.

2) Are we now headed down an inevitable path to two super leagues (SEC, B1G) and a bunch of new Group-of-Five-level conferences?

Cameron J. Underwood: I mentioned this in the first answer, but I think we’re on a FAST track toward super conferences. IDK how many there will be, but this move is a clear marker that the world of CFB is heading in that direction, and fast.

Kappa Cane: I’m thinking there will be at least 3 leagues. The ACC will find a way to hold on, but there will likely be some reshuffling of teams.

Justin Dottavio: There will be three leagues (PacBig12, SEC, B1G), and it’s time for the G5’s to break off and just make their own playoff. Have 3 D1 levels (FCS, G5, P5).

Craig T. Smith: Without a doubt. There’s too much money to be made, and FOX and ESPN will ultimately split the two, along with NBC if the Irish remain independent. The question is: what happens to the remaining PAC-12 and Big 12 members? I think there’s enough talent left among the PAC-12 and Big 12 schools to form a third conference, but will any attractive programs latch onto the SEC or B1G first? And does the ACC hold on somehow? So for sure two conferences with the chance of a third.

3) What does this all mean for the ACC, the last remaining Power Five conference to not yet bleed members? Is there any way the conference can survive long-term, and if so, what does it need to do?

Cameron J. Underwood: Again, I touched on this in the first answer, but the ACC has to make moves to add teams to maintain relevance. There’s also the point that they have to stop being so beholden to the ACC Research Triangle (Duke, Carolina, and NC State) and embrace expansion. I’ll leave that “stop putting the triangle ahead of everything else” argument for later and give you the clear path forward in my mind.

Step 1: Add Notre Dame as a full member, WHICH INCLUDES FOOTBALL!!!! This is foundational. This is non-negotiable. THIS HAS TO HAPPEN....or the ACC is not going to last. ND is a tangential member of the ACC at present, with the non-football sports in the conference. That’s not gonna cut it. Football is the reason we’re in this place with super conferences on the horizon, so the Golden Domers have to join the league. And, it’s been said/thought elsewhere that being independent won’t be sustainable much longer. Better for the ACC. ND joins fully, including football.

Step 2: Poach 2-4 more national brands. Debate who you want, but Oregon and Washington are big national brands who were left behind by the LA schools’ defection from the Pac-12. Geography is clearly not a barrier/issue to realignment, so the ACC would be wise to grab those teams and maybe a couple others as well. I know local legislators are trying to keep the public schools together — i.e. Oregon and Oregon State, and Washington and Washington State always being in the same conference — but that’s not gonna stop this move to the new era. And, to be honest, what those legislators want has nothing to do with the ACC. Bye, little brother schools. Outside of Oregon and Washington, look to the Big 12 (West Virginia? Baylor? Houston?) or remaining Pac 12 schools, like Cal or Arizona/ASU (whichever you prefer....or both) and make moves happen.

Kappa Cane: The ACC will need to negotiate better television revenue sharing and offer more games on channels people actually watch. Having to search for an ACC game on the ACC Network when major markets don’t carry, or Bally Sports (wtf?) it is annoying.

Justin Dottavio: The ACC is dead because of their terrible TV deal. Mix the TV deal with how unwatchable the network is and you get a dead conference. Big 12 is already talking about scooping up Utah, Colorado, and the Arizona schools.

Craig T. Smith: If the ACC wants to survive, it’s going to have to make it worth their members’ while. I don’t know if that reasonably can be done (I’m not privy to their books), but again, it all comes down to what can you do for those members to keep them from bouncing. That’s step 1. Step 2 is fixing the absolute bleep-show disaster that is the ACC Network and finding a better way to broadcast your games and sell your brand. No more God-awful Bally Sports blackouts, get serious with cable providers, and DO. BETTER. Lastly, add Notre Dame. It’s a must-have. Miami is a brand, and so is FSU, Clemson, UNC, Duke (the latter two for basketball), but it’s a college football world we’re living in, and no one has a bigger name than the Irish (as much as it pains me to say that). Bring them on board as a FULL member - doing whatever that reasonably may take - and pay the members a competitive annual figure, and your chances of success as a conference increase significantly.

4) If it doesn’t join the B1G, does Notre Dame to the ACC make sense, and would it help give the ACC any long-term staying power?

Cameron J. Underwood: As I said in my plan for the ACC in the answer above, yes, ND joining the conference both makes sense AND matters. The prior/current connection between ND and the ACC — there’s a schedule agreement where the Irish play multiple games against ACC teams each year, and all their other sports are ACC members — make this a must-get situation for the conference. Hate them though I do, Notre Dame is among the biggest national brands in the world of college athletics, and that matters when building and sustaining a conference. They gotta get in the boat. Now.

Kappa Cane: They are already ACC members for other sports, so it seems like a natural fit, but I don’t see them joining the ACC. They have had every opportunity to do so in years past and haven’t. The Covid year was a one off that showed what it would look like, and ND likely didn’t see enough of a financial benefit to lock it in.

Justin Dottavio: ND is the big piece. They’re going to the B1G or staying indy. Why even go to the ACC at this point? Nice fit in a 20 team B1G.

Craig T. Smith: I hit on that before, but they’re a very, very important piece to the conference’s continued stability and survival. It’s no secret the PAC-12 declined to give Texas the ransom they wanted in 2011 to come on board, and now that conference is in its death throes. Will Notre Dame and the ACC end up in a similar standoff? If so, it could be very difficult for the ACC not to make concessions to bring them on board. I would feel extremely dirty doing something like that if I was an ACC decision maker, but sometimes things have to be done that are unpleasant.

5) If you’re Miami, are you being proactive about this and getting out in front by calling one or both of the SEC/B1G?

Cameron J. Underwood: HELL YEAH YOU ARE!!! I know I’ve given props to Notre Dame in a pair of answers, but Miami is Miami and even when the program hasn’t been good on the field, the relevance is undeniable. Academically, calling the Big Ten is the way to go. Athletically and Geographically (which, again, I know isn’t the be-all, end-all that it once was) the SEC makes more sense. But in either case, Miami sitting idly by and watching realignment happen around them and not being a deciding factor in the future of the program is unacceptable. With previous leadership, I would have been concerned about it. With this new Athletic Administration, I’m not concerned. They’ll get this right.

Kappa Cane: If Miami wants to compete with the Bama’s Georgia’s and Ohio State’s then they have to explore the opportunity. The ACC has been good for Miami for sports that are not football, but the ACC just doesn’t feel like a good fit to me. Dan Radakovich has his work cut out for him, but I think the fan base would support joining the SEC over the B1G. Miami hasn’t been a good team in cold weather games and that would be my biggest argument against joining the B1G.

Justin Dottavio: Miami should try for the B1G instead of the SEC. They fit in better with the B1G vs the massive state schools in the deep south of the SEC.

Craig T. Smith: No doubt. You have to see what’s out there (unless the ACC proves it’s capable of longevity AND makes its member conferences a MUCH better, more competitive offer to stay). If the SEC and the B1G are the way of the future, it’s time to come on board. Miami has a lot to offer a conference in name brand, large market, top-notch facilities, and a program on the rise. Regionally they fit in well in the SEC, but they have some interesting history with some big-name programs in the B1G and have never shied away from long intra-conference travel, so don’t count them out.

6) What are some pros and cons of joining the SEC? The B1G?

Cameron J. Underwood: SEC Pros - Geography, elite competition, finances

SEC Cons - Elite competition (they have monster programs everywhere), hierarchy (where would Miami fit in the mind of conference leadership?)

Big Ten Pros - Finances, Academics, Easier path to winning than SEC

Big Ten Cons - Geography and the associated travel, hierarchy (same as SEC)

Kappa Cane: The SEC would place us in a regional conference that we are geographically near, and would include natural competition with programs we go head to head with for recruits. The B1G would be less advantageous to Miami because they don’t stand to gain as much recruiting positioning in the B1G markets. The bulk of the best players come from places already represented by the SEC.

Justin Dottavio: SEC could help ‘regionally’ for travel, but where do Miami alumni live? I’m guessing more alumni live in the NE and MW than the deep south.

Craig T. Smith: SEC pros - regionally located; a renewed annual rivalry with Florida seems very likely; could help with recruiting Georgia, Alabama, other southern states. It would also help maintain the Miami - FSU rivalry if both schools move to the conference, as a non-conference rivalry could be more difficult to pull off if just one moves to the rugged SEC.

SEC cons - whooooo buddy, those schools are state-money driven, and how they are. Miami - we’ve especially learned this year - has money, but state funding and rabid fandom are financially challenging to compete with for a small private school. I don’t see the rivalry games with other SEC member schools being as interesting as tilts with schools like Ohio State, Penn State, USC, Michigan, etc., but that’s just me.

B1G pros - Rivalry games with schools like Ohio State, Penn State, USC, Michigan, etc. are fascinating to me. Miami has some established rivals with some B1G programs, and continuing them would be a fun thing for the program and fans, I’d think. Miami also seems to have more of a northern-school-in-southern-Florida feel than a true southern school, so it kind of seems to fit in with the B1G a little more than, in addition to many UM alums and fans living up north.

B1G cons - the others have touched on it some here, but it doesn’t make much sense recruiting-wise for Miami to try to gain access into midwestern recruiting markets when their focus is more south Florida, Florida, Georgia, Texas, etc. Joining the SEC would be more of a benefit for recruiting, I’d say.

7) It’s obvious that part of the lure of the B1G landing USC and UCLA was expanding into the nation’s second-largest market. Do you think capturing the south Florida market has any such kind of attractiveness for either the SEC or the B1G?

Cameron J. Underwood: I think markets matter and yes, getting into the South Florida market more for either or both conferences would matter. It’s not the #2 market like Los Angeles (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale is actually the 16th ranked TV market), but Miami is still a destination location and valuable for a conference portfolio. And, if you’re adding UM, you’re also adding a world-class venue in Hard Rock Stadium, which has hosted and will host Super Bowls, CFB Championship games, a major CFB Bowl Game, one of the biggest non-major tennis tournaments of the year, and now an F1 race. Whereas the B1G or SEC would have to explain to people why adding a team from, say, Charlottesville, is important, adding a team from Miami — especially on the trajectory the Canes appear to be on with new leadership at every level of the athletic department and football program — is a choice that speaks for itself.

Kappa Cane: For the SEC, they are already represented well in the SE region, so I don’t see it as more of a benefit for them than for the B1G. The LA region would be the natural choice as the best (most fertile) recruiting ground outside of FL, but the Midwest produces great lineman prospects. If I had to pick one it would be the SEC for Miami 10/10 times.

Justin Dottavio: It definitely helps FOX and the B1G Network to land Miami more than it helps the SEC.

Craig T. Smith: I think so, although I think it’s more of an attractive nugget for the B1G than the SEC. The B1G now has member schools in the nation’s top 3 markets and has shown itself to be a more of a widespread entity than the regional (but extremely impactful) SEC. As such, getting a foothold in south Florida could be something that interests the folks in the B1G headquarters.

8) Where do you see Miami ending up in 5-10 years?

Cameron J. Underwood: This is a tough one because I could see things going in a multitude of ways. Regardless of the conference, I have no doubt that Miami will be a key member in one of the (I believe) forthcoming super conferences, and continue to be a top end name brand in the world of College Football.

Kappa Cane: Miami will eventually leave the ACC. I’m expecting it to be dependent on their conference buyout, but I just don’t see them remaining in a conference that has had such terrible officiating, poor broadcasting options, and slow response to change.

Justin Dottavio: I think in the B1G; if Miami admin goes to the SEC I can’t see that working out well in the wins dept. The SEC schools outside of Vandy can just dump cash on their problems. Miami needs to diversify their backing- one guy can’t fund the whole athletic department.

Craig T. Smith: This is tricky to predict, but ultimately I don’t think Notre Dame joins the ACC as a football member, and the downward spiral of the ACC begins. Miami ultimately follows Clemson and FSU to the SEC, along with another school or schools (i.e., UNC and/or Virginia Tech), and begins a new legacy of football where “It Just Means More”. Miami FEELS like more of a fit for the B1G based on its national brand, its widespread alumni base, and the fact that it’s regionally “south of the South”, and they very well could end up there. I would slightly prefer this route, actually. However, if you’re putting me to it, I’d say the opportunity to compete in the SEC and continue the rivalries with Florida and FSU, along with the money (obviously) will lead the Canes there inside the next decade.