Realignment Talk Heats up Again

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Now that it’s late February, everybody’s favorite offseason topic came up yesterday: conference realignment!  The latest rumors have the Big Ten in talks with North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia Tech.

With the Big Ten Network, it’s all about population.  Expanding into new states makes sense, particularly in the south, where the population of the country is shifting.  In terms of population in their geographic footprint, the ACC is tops of all conferences.  These numbers are from Wikipedia for the 2010 census and include Maryland with the Big Ten, and Louisville, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pitt with the ACC.

Total Population in Geographic Footprint:
ACC: 101,796,866
SEC: 92,237,058
Big Ten: 84,388,111
Pac 12: 63,433,919
Big 12: 37,689,527

If the ACC ever wants to start their own ACC Network, they would obviously be in a position to have a lot of subscribers.  Adding Pitt and Syracuse increased the population in ACC states by over 32 million.  The ACC would still be #1 even if you subtract Notre Dame from their list of schools.

Adding the states of North Carolina and Virginia to the Big Ten would give that conference a population increase of nearly 18 million.  They would then have the largest population of all athletic conferences, and they’d be set to make a ton of money off of the Big Ten Network.

That move would make perfect sense for the Big Ten.  UVA, North Carolina and Georgia Tech all fit the academic profile that the Big Ten looks for, and they would add major markets for the Big Ten Network.  If that league is truly looking to expand again, those schools are the natural selections.  As a side note, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney is a UNC grad.

On the other hand, Delaney should be careful.  Neither UVA or UNC are major football programs, and I think both programs are capped by the overall culture of their school.  If you add those schools, you run the risk of watering down your product, particularly when you just added Maryland and Rutgers.

I don’t expect that situation to develop very quickly.  The ACC and the University of Maryland are embroiled in a big legal issue over the $52 million exit fee.  The ACC wants its money, and Maryland doesn’t want to pay it.  Who knows how long that issue will drag on?  If UVA, UNC or Georgia Tech are actually interested in leaving the ACC, they are going to cool their heels for awhile and see how that lawsuit turns