The ACC has gotten two much-needed victories in the past week. First, the Clemson Tigers beat Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, and then the Florida State Seminoles beat Auburn in the BCS Championship Game to give the ACC a national championship and a 2-0 record in BCS Bowl Games this season. However, the ACC also suffered a loss when Charlie Strong left Louisville to become the new head coach of the Texas Longhorns.
Louisville is set to replace Maryland as a member of the ACC in 2014, and that is trading up from the ACC’s perspective as Strong has built the Cardinals into a nationally relevant program, leading them to a 23-3 record over the past two seasons. Strong is a great recruiter, especially in the state of Florida, and there’s little doubt that he would have continued to recruit well in Florida with Louisville becoming a member of the ACC to give the Cardinals one of the most talented rosters in the conference.
If Strong had stayed in Louisville, he would likely have continued to build the program and give the ACC three top programs in Florida State, Clemson, and Louisville all in the same division. This would have made the ACC Atlantic division one of the best in college football, perhaps putting it on par with the SEC East, as the Atlantic would have three top-15 programs.
However, with Strong moving to Texas, there’s no guarantee that Louisville will continue to grow and stay nationally relevant. If they don’t find a coach that can build off of what Strong has done, the Cardinals could become just another mediocre ACC team, and right now the ACC needs more powerful teams at the top instead of more mediocre teams cluttering up the middle of the conference.
If Louisville doesn’t remain a top program under new leadership, the ACC will remain where they are right now with Florida State dominating a conference full of mediocre programs. There’s not even a guarantee that Clemson will remain a top-10 program as they’ll have to replace the trio of Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant next season. If they struggle to do so it will only widen the gap between Florida State and the rest of the conference.
The ACC needs several of its teams to raise their level of play and become more nationally relevant if they expect to get to the same level as the SEC and the Pac 12. Louisville looked like it was going to become another top program the ACC could hang its hat on, but that is far less certain now that Strong has left. Even though the results of the BCS Bowls make the ACC look good in the short term, Strong’s move to Texas could hurt the ACC in the long run.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.