The Changing Landscape of the ACC

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With its acquisition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the ACC took a big step
towards becoming a true Atlantic Coast Conference that extends up and down most
of the eastern seaboard. The additions triple the number of conference schools
above the Mason-Dixon Line, and with the states of Pennsylvania and New York on
board, significant television markets have been added to the ACC’s footprint.
With more additions likely on the way, the ACC is becoming the eastern giant of
college athletics.

Most fans and commentators have been talking about the effect the additions
have (and will have) on football and basketball. But this short column will be a
simple exercise in looking at maps and state populations. When you look at the
expanse that the new ACC covers (and might cover with more additions), you start
to appreciate the impact of new and future additions.

With the help of a nifty Interactive
College Football Map
we discovered, and some limited Photoshop skills, we
can illustrate how the ACC is changing geographically. We’ll also illustrate the
drastic increase in population now covered (and potentially covered) by states
in the ACC’s footprint. All population numbers are from Wikipedia.

The Present Day ACC

  • Number of states: 7 (and the District of Columbia)
  • Population: 63,573,758

Map: Boston College is obviously an outpost in the ACC, but looking at
a map really emphasizes how far outside the footprint BC is.

The ACC With Pittsburgh and Syracuse

Adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse bumps up the population a staggering 50% and
gives Boston College some northern playmates.

  • Number of states: 9 (and DC)
  • Population: 95,654,239 (+50.5% over present-day ACC)

Map: Now BC doesn’t seem so isolated any more, and the ACC really
starts to take on the look of a true “Atlantic Coast” conference,
instead of a “Mid-Southern Atlantic” conference.

The ACC With Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rutgers and Connecticut

One possible outcome is that the conference will add Rutgers and UConn to the
mix, creating a 16-team eastern superconference. Boston College has even more
playmates, and population in the ACC’s footprint takes another jump.

  • Number of states: 11  (and DC)
  • Population: 108,020,023 (+69.9% over present day ACC)

Map: Now the Atlantic coast is truly covered, and the number of
schools above the Mason-Dixon Line increases to five.

The ACC With Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Connecticut and Notre Dame

It’s doubtful that the ACC would be able to add Notre Dame any time soon, but
just for fun, what would that look like, and what would it do to the numbers?

  • Number of states: 11  (and DC)
  • Population: 105,712,138 (+66.3% over present day ACC)

Map: Indiana doesn’t even begin to be an Atlantic state, but note that
most schools in the ACC from Maryland down through the south are just as close
to Notre Dame as they are Boston College.

Keep reading after the map for more thoughts.

The Possibility of an ACC Network?

One of our disappointments with ACC Commissioner John Swofford when the last
television contract was signed was the lack of an independent ACC Network,
similar to the Big Ten Network, outside the ESPN/ABC umbrella. Swofford
dismissed the notion of an ACC Network, saying they had studied it and it wasn’t

With ACC expansion into Pennsylvania and New York, increasing the population
in the ACC’s footprint from 63 million to 95 million, we wonder if the concept
of an ACC Network is back on the table. The ACC can renegotiate with ESPN now
that membership has changed, and you wonder if renegotiations will include a new
ACC Network.

Yes, we’ve heard it all before: people in Boston don’t care about college
sports, people in New York don’t watch Syracuse football, etc. But it’s not
about how many people watch college football. It’s about how many cable
subscribers you can get for your network. With Pennsylvania and New York added
to the mix, the potential revenue for a dedicated ACC Network just took a big

Adding New Jersey and Connecticut would give things another nice push. If the
ACC somehow lands Notre Dame, it’s not about how many people live in Indiana …
it’s about having Notre Dame.

As I said in the opener, most people have been concentrating on the effects
that new additions will have on the quality of basketball (good) and football
(not good). But when you start examining the effect additions have on the
league’s geography and population, it gets pretty exciting to think of the

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