Since I don't believe this is how things are going to go in the near future, particularly with the Big Ten recently restating their intention for a 12-18 month time period before really doing anything, I have held off blogging about it. Frankly I believe its not going to happen, but in the long-term future, I do believe we will see more superconferences, particularly to get the non-BCS conferences raised in stature. With all the articles running around about it though, I gave it some more thought.
Where should Clemson try to go? What about the ACC? Are we going to end up like the Big East was when we raided their membership? Will Swoffy be proactive?
My personal opinion on Tobacco Road schools has always been a very simple one: Fuck ya'll. Swofford has always done whatever suited the big basketball schools the best and will always do so if he stays as commish. I would bet thats an opinion shared by nearly every ACC blogger thats not in the state of NC, and if you put a poll on most message boards for the teams then thats the basic sentiment you will find.
Clemson is a charter member of the ACC and I would imagine 75% of our fans downright despise most of the ACC. That's why we dont have the same comraderie that the SEC teams generally do have when we see teams play OOC. Clemson has felt like an outsider since the Conference, in its divine wisdom, decided soon after formation to increase the admission standards across the board making it terribly difficult to compete with the lower SEC standards, and pushing Clemson out of any effort Frank Howard put forth in the '50s to make us a top tier football school. Howard reportedly said at the time that we should play conference-only games, so the rest of the country wouldn't know how sorry we were. Thats why Frank's teams seemed to always get an ACC title with 6-4-1 or 5-4-2 records: we'd beat ass in conference and get crushed OOC.
Since the Administration hired Max Lennon after the 1985 steroid scandal, we've been fighting a two-sided battle. I would've thought when Danny was here that they could've let him run his show and just worked on improving academics, but with the power struggle that resulted in his firing, its been one-sided. Its the same one you saw on the "The U" documentary between Jimmy Johnson and the president of Miami Tom Foote at the time: the academic side wants us to be the Harvard of the South, while the fans want us to be a top tier football school. The Admin hired shitty people to run the whole athletic program and made people happy with mediocre results, and now with Barker taking $2.8 million away per year from an AD barely breaking even, we're hampered from going further in football because of the state's budget cuts and the Admin's overriding desire to make us a Top 20 public school.
My opinion on the Top 20 initiative is a separate issue, on one hand I like it, but if it hampers football I do not. We can do both and I believe that wholeheartedly. However my B.S. doesnt mean a damn bit more now than it did 7 years ago when I got it. After working in academia the last few years, I know that unless you come from the best academic schools in your discipline (like Caltech for physics, MIT or GT for engineering, etc.), nobody cares where you got your degree. Some of what Barker sells you folks is just pure bullshit.
The ACC doesnt really help us with the checkbook balance either, so on top of keeping higher academic standards mandated by them and keeping any chance of partial qualifiers out, we get hamstrung by bad TV and radio marketing deals. A good chunk of people in SC can't even watch our Raycom games, and we wonder why we lose players to other states? Get us the hell off of Raycom! I realize Clemson has now raised our standards over the ACC minimum, but I'd rather leave exceptions open for the big 3 sports. 85 scholarships for dummies out of 17,000-some odd students doesnt bother me one bit, just give them PRTM. If we had a more proactive administrative leadership (meaning not the AD, though they need improving too) then we could do that.
Do I want to leave the ACC? Well thats complicated and I'm torn on the issue. I hate most of the ACC and I hate the leadership, but if we can't win this conference in the big 3, why would we want to go elsewhere? Some folks may call that a loser's mentality but I care about titles, and 10-win seasons in this conference can raise enough money and recruits to give us 50-50 odds on beating anyone else out of conference. Danny Ford did it. It can be done again. On the other hand, another $10-15 million in TV revenue per year would pay for WEZ Phase III, indoor practice facility, a new basketball practice facility, and any improvements needed to Tiger Field (luxury boxes would be the next choice in my opinion). All of that would generate more revenue per year and help in recruiting too.
Still, in basketball you'd have Florida, Kentucky, and Tennessee to fight against, so its hardly better than UNC, Duke and Maryland perennially. In football the only SEC East teams we'd whip is one currently on the schedule with Kentucky and Vandy. We'd have Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia and thats just in the East. I hate UGA and want to play them, though I would not say we'd beat them every year in the current state of the program. I dont want Clemson fans to become like SC fans and happy with 6-5 seasons. In baseball I would call the move lateral or a slight step upwards in difficulty, but baseball doesn't worry me so much.
Maybe if we were at that 10-win level now, I'd be more gung-ho about this idea.
I think Clemson could eventually be on the level of UT/UGA given the new TV money, but given the amount of talent in Florida I doubt we would ever consistently win the SEC East. Only when Florida hires a bad coach is the East going to be up for grabs (see Zook). In the ACC Atlantic we just have FSU to worry about, and I know we can beat them at least every other year at home. Losing to anyone else in this division is unacceptable to me, yet we still F around and do it. I see no reason, based on our inexplicable losses the last 10 years, to think we wouldnt pull a Tammy and lose to Kentucky or Vandy or Mississippi State every once in a while.
But if we arent proactive, we're going to be sitting here thinking about joining C-USA. The SEC TV deal got this all started, and everyone else is trying to catch up. The Big East is exploring the possibility of adding teams back (which i think is unmanageable given the basketball number) and SEC Commish Mike Slive said yesterday he would be "proactive" about expansion to 14-16 should the Big Ten start the dominoes falling. Slive has always been pretty proactive about things...wouldnt it be nice if we had a commisioner like that? Charter members of the ACC will be tough to pull away, but when they listen, you better have already started conversations with someone.
I know our AD would listen, but what about Barker and the Board? Is Swoffy going to be proactive about maintaining the conference as it stands or is he going to sit on his hands and end up making us settle for far less as usual?
I want to know what you think about this, Clemson fan or not.