I was listening to my iPod on shuffle today and the song “What Goes Around” by Justin Timberlake came on.
First, I want to say how hard it was for me to freely admit that I have the song stylings of the former Mr. Britany Spears on my Apple gadget.
But I felt it was apropos given the news that a powerful conference blindsided a weaker conference, poaching a team for the purposes of expanding its reach and relevance in a new television market.
No, I’m not talking about the Big 10 swooping in to steal Maryland and, more importantly, the DC market from the ACC. I’m thinking a few more years back than that.
Specifically, I’m thinking of Boston College.
Back in 2004, the ACC was primarily a southeastern conference that went as high as the mid-Atlantic, stopping at the Mason-Dixon line. That was until the ACC pilfered the Eagles from the Big East to gain access to the Boston and New England markets.
Geographically, the move made no sense. Sure, Boston College was only a short flight down to Maryland or Virginia Tech, who joined the Eagles in bolting the Big East for the ACC. But did it make sense for the women’s volleyball team to play a conference game in Clemson instead of Providence? Of course not.
But geography didn’t matter to the ACC. The market share did. And that is why George Tech and Boston College schedule each other on rivalry week, right? (They don’t.)
It made sense to add Virginia Tech and Miami, in terms of both athletic talent and where they were on the map. But Boston College? Even on a talent level, it was a reach from the very start. The Eagles have declined rapidly in basketball, and the football program is still struggling for relevance.
Which brings me to today.
Maryland, a founding member of the ACC, announced it was leaving the ACC for the Big 10, scoffing at the $50 million exit fee (which may be lowered after litigation) that came with the decision.
This wasn’t on anyone’s radar last week. Rumors only started in the last few days, reminiscent of when Boston College jumped ship in 2004.
The Big East was left flat-footed the same way the ACC is today.
And the ACC only has itself to thank.
It was the conference that started the notion of the super conference. It was the originator of conference pillaging. It reached outside of its traditional geographic area to pull in BC in the same way the Big 10 plucked Maryland.
And you can point to that as the initial domino that will lead to San Diego State playing Temple next year in a Big East conference game.
Maryland defecting is karma in its most beautiful sense.
To be sure, the ACC can easily make up for Maryland in terms of talent on the field. The Terrapins have struggled in both basketball and football recently. Plus, UConn and Louisville are salivating at the opportunity to ditch a quickly disintegrating Big East.
But Maryland leaving means much more than talent.
It means that suddenly, the former hunters are now the hunted. Who doesn’t think that Florida State or Clemson or Virginia Tech aren’t at least thinking about the idea of relocating?
Who doesn’t think the ACC could be in serious jeopardy and collapse into the SEC or Big 12?
And as a Syracuse fan, who isn’t at least a little worried that, just when SU thought it had a seat in the musical chairs game of conference realignment, the music might stop and the Orange wouldn’t have a conference to call home?
You can pinpoint 2004 as the genesis of this.
As Mr. Timberlake so eloquently put: “What goes around comes around, comes around, comes all the way back around.”
My iPod was dropping truth bombs today. It was directed at the ACC.Wesley Cheng