Spring is a lot of fun for Wahoo fans, namely because we get to enjoy success pretty much across the board here. With five NCAA titles (seven if you include the two before NCAA took over the sport), men's lacrosse is easily the most successful program Virginia has to offer (you can argue men's soccer, who has six NCAA titles, but the first five came over a six year span from 1989-1994, with the sole other title coming in 2009). So here's the question: would you trade an NCAA title in lacrosse for an ACC title in either football or men's basketball?
We asked ourselves this question this past week - an NCAA title in exchange for an ACC title. There was no clear agreement among our own editors, so after we discussed amongst ourselves, we also turned to Brad Franklin of CavsCorner.com to get his opinion. Here's what we all had to say. It's a pretty lengthy discussion, so enjoy the read and weigh in your own thoughts in the comments.
Tim Mulholland: If we're working under the assumption that both programs are already competitive and that both programs are on the rise, ACC football and basketball titles get you nice plaques in your stadiums and banners in your arenas and trophies in the trophy cases... but not much else. It does help marginally on the recruiting trail. But it has no benefit on the University as a whole and it has only marginal benefit on the strength of the athletics department as a whole.
If it were the difference between going from non-competitive in football or basketball to competitive... that might be a different discussion. But we're already competitive in both sports. I guess it's like an 80/20 rule. What we've got right now has already given us 80% of the benefits and we did it without sacrificing things other student athletes. The other 20% of the benefits aren't worth sacrificing the health of the overall athletics program, which is what losing one of those national titles does.
TikiUVA: Frankly, it's obvious.
The benefits to the overall athletic department are much greater for a football or basketball ACC title. The truth is, people pay attention to football and basketball. Winning an ACC basketball title (I'm assuming we mean ACC tournament championship as opposed to regular season) is a big deal. Season ticket sales at JPJ will go up. Merchandise sales will go up. The school's brand name goes up. The ACC tournament is one of the premiere conference tournaments, probably second behind the Big East. Plus, beating UNC or Duke in the ACC tourney final would be so much fun.
As for football, it's simply a no brainer. Winning an ACC title means playing in a BCS bowl. Again, season ticket sales at Scott Stadium would go through the roof. Fans would travel to the bowl game (hopefully!), after traveling to the ACC title game (again, hopefully). People watch those games. Let's face it, most people don't watch the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Plus, the benefits to recruiting could be endless, even if we lose the bowl game. Just playing in those BCS games gives a huge boost to the school's national profile. And again, winning the ACC championship game would be so much fun.
Look, I like lacrosse, and I love that UVA is one of the dominant teams in lacrosse. But the truth is that the lacrosse community is still pretty small. Outside of that community, nobody cares who won the national title. Casual football fans care who wins the ACC championship game, because it affects the BCS bowls. Casual basketball fans might not care who wins the ACC tournament, but they'll watch the game.
If you asked me to trade 2 lacrosse title for 1 ACC football/basketball title, that'd be a better question. One for one is too easy.
Justin Ferber: I'd take the football and basketball ACC titles. It's awesome to win national championships in lacrosse or any other sport, but an ACC title for football could change the course of the program for years and years, not to mention the money aspect. The ACC is still a hoops league, so a conference title in basketball would be huge too. And as much as it means to us, most people in the country that follow college football and basketball probably couldn't tell you who won the 2011 lax national title.
Brian J. Leung: Like Tim, I'm one of the bigger lacrosse fans of this group. And I certainly love watching us crush the opponent (which apparently doesn't happen if the opponent's name is Duke). But would I trade the 2011 lacrosse national title for an ACC title in football or basketball?
If we're talking football, then yes. Like Tiki said, the benefits of winning an ACC title -- and subsequently playing in a BCS bowl -- are just way too huge to overlook. Fame, fortune, beautiful women...all that stuff. The benefit is not necessarily the right to say that we're the ACC champions, but rather the right to play in a BCS bowl, which people remember year-in, year-out. Huge effects on recruiting, and it instantly means we don't have to answer any questions about "So how did your football team do last year?" That's a question we get even if we play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the ACC's best bowl after the BCS.
If we're talking basketball, I'd have to say no. To be king of the ACC, a traditional hoops league, is great and all, but I don't think the benefits are necessarily worth it. To win the ACC title, it really just means you were playing good basketball during those four days. It's a run in March Madness that people will remember, and you can get into that without winning an ACC title. Fans remember who reaches the Sweet 16 and the Final Four, not necessarily who wins the ACC. So while it's a nice title to have, I don't think I'd be willing to trade in a national championship elsewhere for it.
Justin: What about b? How does that fit in? The College World Series seems to be bigger than a Lax Final Four, but it's not as big as football or basketball. Considering we already have a bunch of lax titles I'm guessing we'd trade one for a baseball national title, but where does baseball fit on the pecking order?
Tiki: Despite there being many more teams participating, I don't think the college baseball community is much bigger than the college lacrosse community. There aren't a ton of casual college baseball fans. I know plenty of people who get mad at ESPN in June when they start televising lots of college baseball. Therefore, I'm not sure I'd trade a lacrosse title for a baseball title. Being one of the two or three best programs in college lacrosse is more valuable to me than being one of a dozen or so good baseball programs.
From the perspective of the athletic department as a whole, they might make the trade. National titles in baseball are harder to come by, and it would be a big achievement. It would help sell tickets and would help further expand and build up Davenport. Fans aren't going to stop coming out to lacrosse games because of one less title, but the support of the baseball program would grow tremendously. Dom already pretty much has his pick of lacrosse recruits, but a title would likely be a boon to O'Connor's recruiting.
Brian Schwartz: Since I was a bit slower on the uptake here, it looks like most of what needs to be said has been said, and I won't pile on (too much).
For me, it's not really close. I fully believe that, in general, there's nothing more important than winning national championships. That's what sports are all about, and it's what separates us from the Hokies. Still, ACC titles are championships too, and in basketball and football, they are particularly influential ones, as you guys have gone over.
In our history, we have won 2 ACC football titles, in 1989 and 1995, and 1 ACC basketball championship, in 1976. That's rough. We have won 5 lacrosse NCAA titles, including 4 in the past 15 years. If we don't win in lax, it's a damn shame, but we are sure to be right there competing again. There's tougher competition in the revenue sports, and more has to fall in place to win the ACC. Last football season, we had a unique opportunity to beat VT at home to head to the ACC Championship game but failed. I really enjoyed our lacrosse run last May, but if I could trade it for those two football wins, I would do so.
Justin, I'll bite on your baseball proposition and actually switch my answer - I'd take the baseball championship. Every season, there are basically 5 or 6 teams with a decent chance of winning NCAA Lacrosse, and we are a good bet to be in the Final 4. College baseball features way more competition, and our program is not yet firmly among the nation's elite, from a historical perspective. Even the best teams struggle to win it all because of the flukey nature of baseball and 64-team double-elimination format. A national championship would be a monumental accomplishment for Brian O'Connor and the baseball program in a sport with a large national following.
Will Campbell: Can I trade all of the lax titles for an ACC regular season baseball championship (which is meaningless)?
That's my quick non serious (but kindof) response while I'm on my phone.
Leung: Not helpful, Will.
Brad Franklin, CavsCorner.com: If the question is would you give up a title already won in lacrosse to win one in football and/or basketball, the answer is no. But in the future? Absolutely. The reality is that UVa is already a powerhouse in lax. And I'm going on the assumption that not winning another national title wouldn't change that. But winning an ACC championship in either football or basketball would be a pretty big deal. It would do so much for the University, for the fanbase, and for the programs. I might not be as apt to say yes if it were a future baseball title, as the program is still building. But UVa lacrosse is already a Duke/Carolina or Alabama/Florida level program. Virginia basketball has had some good times in hoops and decent times in football but to win an ACC crown in hoops or go to the school's first BCS Bowl would be big. To win a championship in either of the revenue sports would be too impactful and do too much to turn down for a lacrosse national title.
The fact that basketball and football are the two biggest revenue sports, which also have arguably the biggest opportunities for fansbase growth, also matters IMO. Would another title really build on UVa's lacrosse brand? But what would an ACC-title winning season do for Bennett or London?
As for why I said no in terms of giving up one, part of the answer above is based on UVa lacrosse being what it already is and that pedigree and status is built on past success. I'm of the opinion that you win a national championship whenever you can but in this context, giving up one hurts that program. Not winning one in the future doesn't hurt. So for the University of Virginia's athletic department? The scenario would be a huge win-win.
Long story short: Yes, I think giving up a national lacrosse title in exchange for an ACC title is a fair exchange for UVa's program. 1) Lacrosse program would be unhurt, 2) It would do SO much for UVa's football to go to the BCS, and 3) Winning the ACC in hoops might not mean as much monetarily for the athletic department but would be huge for recruiting and excitement of the fanbase.
What do you think - who took the best position here? Would you be willing to make the sacrifice?