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Adding Syracuse to the ACC May Be Commissioner John Swofford's Biggest Mistake

The ACC's commissioner looks to have made a big mistake in one of the three new additions to the conference.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

John Swofford, the commissioner of the ACC since 1997, probably isn't a fan favorite among the writers or readers of this blog. The Tar Heel alumnus was the AD in Chapel Hill in 1982, when they supported additional sanctions on Clemson after the NCAA had already levied a heavy burden on the Tiger program then led by Danny Ford. This ill-will towards Swofford was exacerbated when the ACC failed to do the same to UNC for seemingly much worse violations that deprived thousands of athletes of quality education.

That said, Swofford has done some good things for the conference. Adding Notre Dame was said to add $1,000,000 per school to the conference's TV contract. He negotiated a far stronger agreement with the Irish than the Big East ever dreamed of, and the Golden Domers are set to visit Death Valley for just the second time ever last season.

Losing Maryland stung, but replacing them with Louisville was a tremendous upgrade in the three major sports (baseball being the third). Add to that the $31,361,788 settlement the ACC received because Swofford and the ACC members raised the exit fee just before the Terps could bolt for the Big 10, and you have a pretty positive situation for the conference.

Back in 2004, Swofford was able to steal away Miami and Virginia Tech from the Big East. Consider that Miami was just a few years removed from a national championship and coming off an Orange Bowl win over FSU. They never brought that level of competitiveness to the ACC, but Virginia Tech quickly became the most competitive team in the conference winning it in their first year and four of their first seven. The ACC would add Boston College shortly thereafter to hit the NCAA mandated minimum of 12 teams needed to hold a conference championship game (blame the NCAA for all the conference realignment).

These 2004 addition though, could have happened differently:

June 18, 2003 - In a surprise move, presidents of Atlantic Coast Conference schools privately drop a plan to invite Miami, Boston College and Syracuse and instead, vote on inviting Virginia Tech and Miami. This comes after five weeks of negotiations with the other three schools for ACC invitations.

Apparently, the ACC nearly made a major mistake by adding the Syracuse Orangemen (prior to losing their manhood) instead of Virginia Tech. Since then, Syracuse has three mere bowl appearances (corrected), while Virginia Tech, even with their struggles now is at a level well above Syracuse.

Basketball you say? That's where this gets really interesting.

With the recently announced sanctions, they will have 10 scholarship players instead of 13 for the next four seasons (pending a potential one year delay) in addition to some other penalties such as lost recruiters and vacated wins.

I won't comment on the appropriateness of the penalties, except to say what they were doing (depriving students of a proper education, enabling drug use, paying players) is serious stuff.

So now an already mediocre football program with a poor coach is on probation for five years and will continue to struggle to be competitive. The basketball program which by all accounts is a big deal in New York and was likely the program the ACC was most interested in adding, will be decimated. They lose their star player next season (Rakeem Christmas) and will start bleeding scholarships. What star recruit will want to commit to the snowstorms of Syracuse without the March Madness that always came when the snow melted. Additionally, Jim Boeheim is suspended for the next nine ACC games and at age 70 will he just retire soon, as the ship is sinking?

So the football program that is struggling and trending downward, the basketball program that is entering a long phase of sanctions and a new coach, and there's no baseball program... It looks a lot like Swofford added nothing of value, but spread the conference money just a bit thinner. I'm appreciating Wake Forest more every day!