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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

B1G Tobacco

First, I understand firsthand that the rumor mill is on overdrive when it comes to conference realignment, and some of what's out there is just an exercise in flinging poo against a wall to see what sticks. Still, the latest is intriguing, if only for regional interest and an exercise in "what if".

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reportedly has an offer from the Big Ten. It's been given a slightly higher level of attention because it's being reported by the same folks who broke College Park to the Big Ten, though to be fair, they're a Maryland blog, so having the inside track on that one made more sense.

Carolina makes sense as a national brand, a power in basketball, decent in football, and strong academically, though we'll get into the caveats with that a little later. It expands the Big Ten footprint southward, which is ok, because, well, geography be damned. While the Big Ten isn't at all in danger in this game of conference Survivor, this strikes a powerful blow against the ACC, which could be effective if the end game is the continued pursuit of the great white buffalo we know as Notre Dame. This could prove interesting; Notre Dame could be school 17 if the other half of the rumor - UVA to the Big Ten as well - is to be believed. This makes sense, if Jim Delany is to be believed that it matters to keep the footprint contiguous.

Still, while the Big Ten touts their academics, there is that little matter of the recent investigation with academic issues and UNC athletics. The Marching Tar Heels would continue to water down the Big Ten marching tradition, which says nothing of UVA (if the Virginia Pep Band were still the primary marching organization of Virginia football, John Phillip Sousa might roll over in his grave). And of course, if UNC splits with Duke, yet another major rivalry goes by the wayside in the name of realignment. Following Duke's basketball game in College Park, Coach K said of the Terps-Duke rivalry: “If it was such a rivalry, they’d still be in the ACC." Will he have the same retort if their archrival leaves without them?

If there is indeed a decision to be made, it may hinge upon whether or not the exit fee is upheld for College Park. Any ACC school with a wandering eye would do well to watch closely to find out whether or not a leap will cost them $50 million. Regardless, a UNC exit would head down the road of the sort of instability that doomed the Big East. After all, a Big Ten expanding to 16+ would likely prompt a move from the SEC, and the logical target is the ACC. The Big 12 may jump into the game as well, and you head down the road to the end game I spoke about here - East Coast irrelevance.
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