The Atlantic Coast Conference is failing at football in a dramatic fashion heading into the 2023 season. The ACC’s TV deal with ESPN is locked in through the 2036 season at only $17 million per team per year. Compare that to the SEC’s old TV deal that was worth $55M and their new deal which could be worth $70M+ per team per year.
On the field, Florida State is celebrating losing to every ranked opponent they played, Clemson has taken a major step back (although, I think that’ll be corrected in ‘23), and Miami is celebrating another off-season championship.
If FSU, Clemson, and Miami left the ACC the league would fall below the current incarnation of the American in TV ratings. pic.twitter.com/ypActAgTa2— FSU Reddit (@RFSUSports) February 24, 2023
This spring, the top ACC schools are vying for an uneven split of the conference’s TV money. This would eventually kill off the ACC, which might be dying without some kind of joint venture, anyway. With the ACC having watched the SEC snap up Texas and Oklahoma, and the Big 12 having grabbed Houston and Cincinnati, there isn’t much room for growth for the ACC that offers any financial boom- without Notre Dame coming in as a full-time football member.
Miami is the team that killed the BIG EAST’s football branch of their conference, and it could potentially be a mixture of karma and poor leadership (over the ACC, well and Miami prior to 2022) that kills off the ACC and the Miami Hurricanes. I for one think Miami Athletic Director Dan Radakovich, the former Clemson AD, needs to step up and force the ACC to do something drastic.
This issue for the ACC has already been played out once in history with the BIG EAST Conference and their sitting on our hands approach to conference expansion.
The BIG EAST part 1 (1991-2003)
Miami dominated the BE’s since the conferences inaugural season in 1991. The Hurricanes played in eight New Years Six level bowl games over the ‘Canes 12 years in the BIG EAST. And then something changed. Miami decided to leave the BE, what’s essentially the ‘Canes alumni footprint along the northeast, and head to the tobacco road driven ACC.
The revamped ACC seemed to be cooking with Virginia Tech coming in off of their best run in college football (1995-2002) and Miami coming off of their second dynasty (2000-2003), and then the whistle blew.
The Hurricanes have failed to win the ACC Championship in 18 seasons. Hell, Miami has only played in the ACC Championship Game once over those 18 years. The Hokies at least ripped off eight consecutive double-digit win seasons in the ACC, before falling on their faces at the end of the Justin Fuente Era.
The BIG EAST part 2 (2004-2013)
Heading into the 2004 season the Miami Hurricanes were off to the ACC and the BIG EAST was left with an abysmal roster led by Boston College’s 9-3 season in ‘04. By 2005, the league added Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati but the writing was on the wall. The BE was all but dead, but then again, the Miami Hurricanes were all but dead, too.
The departure of Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC from the BIG EAST eventually collapsed the league. Teams like West Virginia struggled outside of two seasons (1993, 1998) under the original format from 1991-2003 and didn’t boom until Miami and VT were off to the ACC from 2005-2007. Even Dana Holgorsen’s best season in Morgantown came while still in the BIG EAST in 2011.
Louisville had their best seasons of football in the CUSA (2001), the BIG EAST (2006, 2012) and the AAC (2013). Even a Heisman Trophy winning QB in Lamar Jackson couldn’t will the Cardinals to a double-digit win season in the ACC.
The ACC’s part 5?
The ACC’s part one was the pre-FSU Era from 1953-1990. Once FSU joined in 1991, and could compete for the ACC Championship in 1992, the Noles dominated part 2 of the ACC Era. Part 3 for the ACC was the addition of Miami and Va Tech, with part four being the addition of Boston College in 2005, and Louisville, Pitt and Syracuse from 2013 to 2014.
Part 5 could be the dawn of a new era of the ACC. Will the conference just align with the Pac-12 to play shared games? Will Notre Dame join the league as a full-time football member? I’m not sure what else could happen that would actually bolster the conference since they’ve sat idly by watching the SEC and Big Ten grow and the Big 12 try to stay relevant.
Will part 5 be life without Florida State and Clemson? Will the Big Ten want Miami? Will the SEC want Miami? I can’t see the SEC working out for the ‘Canes at all for a variety of reasons, but the Big Ten wouldn’t be a bad fit for The U regarding enrollment size and academic expectations.
Smoke and mirrors?
In 18 years the ‘Canes have had four losing seasons as ACC members while having only one losing season, the scholarship depleted 1997 squad, in 12 years in the BE. A series of failed head coaching hires, a move from the Orange Bowl to Hard Rock Stadium, and TV deals come and gone have left Miami with only one double-digit winning season.
The ‘Canes were dominant in the 80’s, early 90’s, and early 2000’s- there’s no doubt. But the teams from ‘91, ‘00, and ‘01 weren’t exactly overcoming huge odds by playing bad Pitt and Boston College teams and horrific Temple and Rutgers teams every season. Add in an FCS opponent and another patsy home game and you’re well on your way to an eight or nine win season and a bowl game every year.
Clearly the 2001 squad was loaded to no end, the most talent ever assembled (even considering the ‘86 squad) on a football team. Then again, the last 15 years or so of Hurricanes rosters can’t even win those games against the Temples and Rutgerses on the slate, let alone the Pitts and Dukes.
It’s certainly hurt Louisville, West Virginia (Big 12), and Miami by having to play a tougher schedule while not reaping the financial rewards of the SEC or Big Ten.
2024 and beyond
2023 is set in stone but the 2024 season will see the College Football Playoff expand from four to 12 teams. Texas and Oklahoma are full-time SEC members in 2024, too. USC and UCLA will change the landscape of the Big Ten in ‘24 as well. So what will the ACC even be by the fall of 2024? The 2005 edition of the Big East?
Maybe this is all just karma for the ‘Canes after killing off the BIG EAST.