The ACC may now be the most stable conference in the country. The Notre Dame addition in all sports but football brings the number of schools in the ACC to 15. That number seems all well and good except for the fact that it is uneven. The number of schools is still even when it comes to football (14), but it is possible that the Fighting Irish eventually join for football as well, that would cause a problem.
As of now, the ACC is giving an impression that they will stop recruiting schools and that fifteen is enough for the conference. However, it is perfectly reasonable to think that a 16th team is being discussed or at least thought about. An even number of teams hasn’t always been a top priority for the ACC.
The conference consisted of nine teams before the first Big East raid (Boston College, Miami & Virginia Tech). If Notre Dame stays independent for the long haul then this isn’t a problem, 14 teams is a solid number. If the Irish eventually decides to join for football down the road, then there is suddenly a real problem. The division format doesn’t work (at least not well) without an even number of teams. So is there a school out there that can fill the void and become the 16th team in the ACC?
There are two schools that have been thrown out as possibilities since last season’s announcement that Syracuse and Pittsburgh were joining the ACC and those are Rutgers and Connecticut. Both of these teams bring advantages and disadvantages to the table. Rutgers brings in the New York City media market, when you mix in Notre Dame and Syracuse then the ACC would have a lock on that city. UConn also brings in some of the NYC market and it also locks down New England when you add in Boston College.
However, both of these schools would want to join the conference in every sport including football. That would immediately cause problems since Notre Dame isn’t a full time member. Suddenly the 15 football team dilemma would become a reality and there would be a real problem.
An interesting addition would be a basketball only Big East school, specifically Villanova. Adding Villanova would immediately strengthen the best collegiate basketball conference in the nation, and the Wildcats have a solid FCS football program. In 2009 Villanova won the National Championship for the FCS.
This wouldn’t be an easy transition. In fact it would take a lot of time and a lot of money before Villanova could even become competitive. However, that move wouldn’t necessarily happen. If Notre Dame commits to staying independent for the long haul, then you add Villanova in everything but football. If the Irish leave the door open to join for football then the ACC could speak with the Wildcats and tell them that they may be called up in a few years.
The ACC is the conference most responsible for the demise of the Big East. They have already taken five full time members away from the Big East in the last decade as well as the team they would have done anything to get in football (Notre Dame). Now there is a real possibility for one final ACC raid on the Big East for one school to complete the conference, end ACC expansion and possibly put the final nail in the Big East’s football coffin.