On Friday morning, Pete Themel announced that the ACC has voted to add Cal, Stanford, and SMU to the conference, expanding the Virginia Cavaliers’ conference to 18 total teams at the moment.
Of course, the presumption is that Florida State, Clemson, and North Carolina, who all voted against this move, will be leaving the conference for better opportunities relatively soon.
What do these schools bring to the table?
The first thought is always financially-based. But for the purpose of us as fans, we have to remember that money really does not matter. You and I will not see a penny of any extra revenue UVA makes. We are in it for wins and losses and what happens on the field. Somehow, many of us have been deceived into thinking otherwise.
With that being said, Cal, Stanford, and SMU do not provide much excitement from an athletics standpoint. None of them have a high ceiling in football or men’s basketball, nor do they have the recent success to compensate.
That said, they do have some success in olympic sports. At least Stanford does, so that fits with Virginia to some extent. But it’s not enough to make this move worth it.
Looking into the future
For the ACC as an entity, this move makes perfect sense. They see the writing on the wall about Florida State, Clemson, and North Carolina and are in survival mode. So, for those aforementioned large schools, it likely does not matter, anyways.
What about the medium schools though? These make up a majority of the conference and UVA is included in that mix. These are the schools that this does not make sense for. If the ACC were to dismantle like the Pac-12, schools like Virginia (and Virginia Tech) will have homes in the “power three” model. Now, they are stuck in a less competitive situation. Again, I urge you as the fan to look at this from a sports perspective and not monetarily.
For what it is worth, this move is extremely beneficial to the smaller ACC schools. It can be argued that Wake Forest benefits the most out of any team in the conference from their situation. Boston College, albeit less successful in recent times, is in a similar boat. In a “power three” model, the little voices get left behind.
The direction of college athletics as a whole
While this conference realignment and expansion trend is not new, now is the time where it directly impacts Virginia.
College athletics are beginning to lose the elements that make it different (and for a lot of us, superior) to the pros. The NCAA has thrived for decades off of authenticity. College sports are beautiful because of the regionality and the rivalries. The local communities that are tight knit because they share the love of their school.
We are headed towards another professional sports model. The fact that a regular season rivalry game between Ohio State and Michigan could deem more important than a playoff result is unheard of for an NFL fan. Or in our case, the fact that Virginia football will never compete for National Championships but the entire season could be defined by the result of the Commonwealth Cup.
Also, what about the most important part of all of this...the athletes?! Most of us would agree that NIL is a good and necessary addition to the sport, and it just needs to be regulated. A pro sports model likely means that they will amass even more money, perhaps eventually signing official contracts and making salaries. This is long overdue for the football players, who are engrained on an endless grind, and are the reason for the massive revenue that college football yields.
On the other hand, for the majority of student-athletes, their lives just got even more difficult. The side effect that nobody thought of is the field hockey players consistently traveling across the country on a Tuesday. Let’s not pretend that the non-revenue sports do not bust their tails as well. But these athletes are in it for the love of the sport and the competition. The money is much less of a factor, if it is one at all.
College sports will survive because at the end of the day, a business is driven by its consumers. Virginia athletics is also strong enough to survive in the way we know it, regardless of what happens. It is just a less than optimal situation for both parties.