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Conference Expansion 2011: Pitt And Syracuse Officially Accepted By The ACC

Well, we may be seeing the beginning of the dominoes falling. Early this morning, the ACC called a press conference to announce that Pitt and Syracuse had officially left the Big East to join the ACC. This doesn't come as much of a surprise since just Friday morning, Brett McMurphy over at CBS Sports broke the news saying that Pitt and Syracuse had applied for ACC Membership.

So what will happen to the Big East now? They only have seven football schools and they are going to need eight just to be able to keep their FBS Status as a conference. Well, the good news for the Big East is that they have a while, or at least should have a while, to find some replacements. Currently, the Big East requires a $5 million exit fee and 27 months notice when a school desires to leave the conference.

If that rule is upheld (We've seen these sorts of rules waived or shortened in the past), then the Big East will have until after the 2013-2014 basketball and football seasons have concluded to replace these two schools. As for whether or not the rule will be upheld, ACC commissioner John Swofford said that it is unclear as to when the schools will join.

Nevertheless, the ACC now has 14 teams and the question is if they will stay there or move to 16 and become the first super conference. Candidates still are available for the ACC to add, mostly from the Big East. West Virginia, UConn, Rutgers, and even Texas have been mentioned as candidates to round out the conference for 16 teams.

If Texas goes to the ACC, then it has been said that they are taking Texas Tech with them, which would most likely mean the end of the Big 12 (Although it looks a lot like that is going to happen whether or not Texas makes a move to the ACC). Texas may be joining very soon, if the reports are true, since their board of regents will be meeting on Monday to discuss the Longhorns conference membership.

Anyways, back to the Big East. Luckily for the Big East, they are on the East Coast, and there tends to be a lot of good teams on the east coast. At this point, the Big East is not dead, as some have said. They have many good expansion candidates on the table and keep in mind that as of right now they only need one more to get back to the required number of eight football members in order to be an FBS conference. Where things could get complicated is if the ACC expands into the Big East yet again.

I've already mentioned who the ACC could still take from the Big East, but the amount that the ACC needs could possibly go up, although it is unlikely. If the SEC or Big Ten poach one or two of the ACC schools, and the ACC still wants to get to 16, then expect them to be taking more Big East schools. The biggest problem with that scenario is that it is unlikely for any ACC team to leave at this point, at least according to ACC commissioner John Swofford.

He said 11 of 12 league presidents attended a meeting in Greensboro, N.C., last Tuesday, with the other participating by phone. During the meeting, they unanimously approved raising the exit fee to $20 million - up from $12 million to $14 million - for any member leaving the conference, a maneuver seemingly designed to keep the remaining ACC schools in the fold.

That is a large chunk of change for a school to pay if it leaves the ACC and the only landing spot I could see is the Big Ten, maybe. It depends on if they are willing to use their TV Contract money to help pay for the school's exit fee. The chances that the SEC is going to pay for that kind of an exit fee are slim which means that they most likely will not be adding any ACC schools anytime soon.

As for who the Big East could add, there are a number of candidates on the table. Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, UCF, Baylor, Iowa State are just a few who would most likely take Big East membership at this point. Houston may also be a good candidate since they would be a good travel partner for TCU and would bring along the Houston market. The biggest thing that would be blocking a move by these schools is the uncertainty of the Big East.

Unfortunately for the Big East, the ACC isn't the only one with eyes on member schools. The SEC and the Big Ten both are taking hard looks at schools from the Big East and the football side of the conference could get ripped to shreds if the ACC, SEC, and Big Ten all decide they want to be at 16 schools.

The reason I said football side is because there is a myth going around that if the Big East crumbles, then that pretty much forces Notre Dame to join a conference since their non-football sports will no longer have a home. People are forgetting that the Big East has eight schools that don't play football in their conference, including Notre Dame. Even if all of the football schools left for other conferences, the basketball side of the Big East would still remain alive and well.

This whole Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC thing is most likely among the first dominoes to start the effect, as the Big East (and the Big 12) would most likely be torn apart of super conferences were to form.



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